Cat and Tatie
The Paris Wife is the story of the first marriage of Ernest Hemmingway to Hadley Richardson and is based on known facts. At the beginning we meet Hadley, a woman in need of a life raft to rescue her from a family that threaten to pull her down into it's undercurrents. Hadley's father is dominated by her mother, becomes a drinker and ultimately loses his own battle to stay afloat, Hadley's mother is domineering and controlling, and her sister wants Hadley to stay and keep her company in her own toxic marriage. Unsurprisingly, Hadley is desperate for love and escape.
Then along comes Hemingway, a force of nature, but also a man in need of his own life raft. Hemingway wanted to escape his domineering and controlling mother, and the emotional injuries which he sustained whilst fighting on the Italian front in the First World War.
Very quickly Hemingway and Hadley met, fell in love, got married and moved to Paris to hang out with the literary demi monde; the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
The marriage had many challenges; Hemingways attitude towards women, his fast and loose attitude to friends, his constant need for adventure and his ferocious literary ambitions. Paula McLeans portrait of Hadley is of a gentle, if a somewhat naive woman, who loves her husband but struggles with his huge personality and with life in bohemian, literary Paris in the 1920's. Hadley held on tight, but it was a bumpy 6 year ride; from 1921 to 1927.
Even though I knew Hemingway was married 4 times, I needed to know what happened to Hemingway and Hadley, or Cat and Tatie as they called each other. I read The Paris Wife quickly, over one weekend, but it will stay with me for much longer. I would like to read A Moveable Feast next, Hemingway's account of his life in Paris, which he wrote when he rediscovered his notebooks in 1957, stored at The Ritz, in Paris, for nearly 30 years.