Novel of the week: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
McClain reimagines the life of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, as a couple in 1920s Paris.
“It’s not easy being a member of the Literary First Wives’ Club,” said Jocelyn McClurg in USA Today. Little is remembered of Hadley Richardson, the first woman Ernest Hemingway married, beyond the fact that she once lost a suitcase containing the entirety of his early work. But in this new novel, which reimagines Richardson and Hemingway’s early days as a couple in 1920s Paris, Paula McLain has given the shy, aspiring pianist a rich, likable persona. But while we can understand Richardson’s ambivalence about becoming the “supportive wife to a budding genius,” McLain has made the younger Hemingway such a “complex and sympathetic figure” that at times you “want to shoo poor insecure Hadley off the stage.” I’m glad she remains at the story’s center, said Roberta Silman in The Boston Globe. Though this book “begins in a rush of early love,” it grows stronger as it nears the marriage’s “heartbreaking” end. A “moving portrait of a woman slighted by history,” The Paris Wife proves hard to put down.