Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

the paris wifeThis month, my book club is discussing The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage with Hadley Richardson. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s personal life before reading this book, much less about Hadley – which I know is probably a major crime for an English major, but I was kind of glad to be able to read this story blind to the historical ending.

Here’s a description of the book from

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

Things I loved about this book:

  • McClain’s writing style is pretty much to die for – descriptive and passionate – you really get a full sense of Hadley and the world that she and Ernest shared together.
  • Hadley – I am very drawn to character driven novels and this one definitely fits the bill. If you don’t like Hadley, you might have a hard time reading this book – but I loved her and found her to be a compelling main character.
  • The literary references! English majors will rejoice at this book which tells not just Hemingway and Hadley’s story, but also features Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and more.

Things I loathed in this book:

  • Ernest Hemingway – He may be brilliant, but he was an ass – at least in this story. The fact that Hadley put up with all of his shenanigans is a real testament to her love for him or possibly just the time period. He just might win the award for Worst Husband Ever.
  • Marriage in this circle of friends was just a sad, cruel joke really. The insane amounts of adultery and betrayal were heart breaking and I often wondered “Is it the time period? The effects of the war? The literary world? Is this just how a lot of marriages are?” It really saddened me how many of Hadley and Hemingway’s friends were in equally awful marriages.
  • The Other Women in this book really had a lot of nerve. I won’t name names because I don’t want to give any spoilers for people who have yet to read the book and are equally unaware of the historical facts surrounding this crazy Literary Soap Opera!

Basically, I really loved this book and I’m looking forward to my book club’s discussion tomorrow!

Have you read The Paris Wife?

Any other similar historical fiction books you think I should check out?

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: July 2013

I was thinking about what to blog about today – BB’s 4th birthday party? The Amazing Pay it Forward Shoes? Yes I definitely want to tell you about those things soon, but then I noticed it’s time for What’s On Your Nightstand? @ 5 Minutes for Books! Who can pass up a chance to talk about BOOKS? Certainly not me!

Never participated in What’s On Your Nightstand? Just answer some or all of the following questions:

What books have you read recently? What are you reading right now? What will you read next? Basically what books are on your nightstand, either literally or figuratively.

Since last month I have read:

  1. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished July 5, 2013 – It was really fun to read a little of the back story on Nicholas Benedict from the Mysterious Benedict books – he was a pretty amazing kid! The story itself stands on it’s own so if you haven’t read the other books in this series, you can feel free to read this one first. I found the book to be well written and funny with plenty of mysteries to solve.
  2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (July Book Club) – Finished July 21, 2013 – I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t previously know very much about Hemingway’s life, much less his wife Hadley’s, because there was never any moment in this book where I definitely knew what would happen next. Beautifully written, this book was a favorite of mine. I really sympathized with Hadley and found the book to be a fascinating look at marriage, literary history and life in the 1920′s. – Full Review

the selection by kiera cassI just started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass last night. I am definitely intrigued by the story’s premise and the main character, America Singer, is definitely that right mix of a sassy, fiercely independent free thinker who suffers from being in love with the wrong guy, according to her society. Yes, it’s a YA Dystopian Story – my fave! Here’s a quick description:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

So when I finish this book, here are the books from my Summer Reading Challenge I’m thinking I’ll read next:

I have to confess though, my wandering literary eye has been itching to read a few other books that have come into my possession recently. I have been doing a really good job sticking to my original list, but sometimes that gets tough when really good looking books come my way.

Also contenders for upcoming reads:

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – I downloaded this on impulse on my Kindle the other day for super cheap and I really would like to read it before seeing the movie, plus it would still qualify as reading a book on my kindle which was one of my goals for my Summer challenge.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz which I won in a First Reads Giveaway. I don’t actually have the books in my hands yet as it still needs to ship out to me – but I think I’ll have a hard time ignoring it when it gets here.

What are you reading right now?