By Rachel Winter
In Paula McLain’s newest book “The Paris Wife,” history and
fiction are intertwined to tell the tale of American author Ernest
Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson.
Although Richardson is remembered for being the woman who lost
reams of Hemingway’s work ” the originals and carbon copies ” at a
train station while vacationing in Switzerland, McLain works past
this and instead gives depth to Richardson, allowing a full picture
of her to emerge.
McLain wanted to give Richardson a voice without making her out
to be the villain everyone seems to think she was.
Another motive behind writing the book was that Richardson
wanted to give readers a view of Hemingway through the eyes of his
first wife, who knew and fell in love with the man before he became
famous for his works.
Through Richardson’s voice, McLain paints a descriptive picture
of the woman who had the love of Hemingway first, and then lost him
to a woman she considered a friend.
Richardson’s love for Hemingway is more for the who he is than
just for his status as a writer, and McLain describes this love in
Set in the 1920’s jazz era in Paris, where Hemingway and
Richardson move to after marrying, McLain takes the reality and
intertwines it with the fiction, making for a story that will
capture readers’ imaginations.
The loss of Hemingway’s works is only the beginning of what
would become a failing marriage and McLain shows in great detail
how Richardson feels and thinks about their situation and her
McLain gives a lovely portrayal of Richardson, showing that she
only wanted to make a home for her family in a country that she did
When Hemingway has an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, who
eventually becomes his second wife, McLain shows with great clarity
how the marriage between Hemingway and Richardson
Richardson believed Pfeiffer to be a friend, and it comes as no
shock that Richardson was deeply hurt when Pfeiffer starting
becoming closer to Hemingway, all while trying to take him
McLain leaves room for readers to impose their own thoughts and
ideas about the other woman, while not making her out to seem like
Using letters, biographies of Richardson and Hemingway and
Hemingway’s stories to gain background knowledge, McLain expertly
intertwines the truth with fiction, allowing Richardson, Hemingway
and the glamour of 1920’s Paris come alive.
McLain makes Richardson’s voice very clear, honest and relatable
throughout the story.
By using such detail and description, McLain’s story is able to
feed any imagination and get Richardson’s story across.
With beautiful descriptions written in a lovely manner that will
have a reader lost in the streets and a life in Paris, “The Paris
Wife” will leave readers feeling as if they are a part of
Richardson and Hemingway’s life.
Courtesy of Ballantine Books
Paris wife’ brought to life
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