The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

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. 


  1. Sounds like a great book. Maybe one for a holiday.

  2. I remember struggling through 'A Farewell to Arms' for either 'o' or 'A' levels and not liking the hardness and bitterness of it but that was many years ago perhaps I didn't, in my youth, quite understand it. Maybe reading this would give me some insight into why Hemmingway wrote the way he did:)

    1. His writing doesn't appeal to me, as the macho subjects he was interested in - bull fighting, shooting, fishing etc. are not my thing, but A Moveable Feast was recommended to me by a friend who has just read it. I'll let you know :)

  3. Ooh this books is on my radar, too. It's out in paperback now, so based on your review I think I'll get it.

  4. I finished this look last Sunday and was actually a bit disappointed with it. I never felt like the book came to life really. I've not read any Hemingway, but am tempted by the memoir you mentioned.

    Also, sorry a Blogger question, please can I ask how you get the 'reply' function for comments? I've been trying to find out how to do this but without any luck.

  5. Ooh this sounds really good. All I've read of Hemingway is about half of A Farewell to Arms. I actually liked it but it was just one of those books that I never got around to finishing back in the day. I've been wanting to go back and read it. I actually liked his writing, though, so I'm not really sure what people are referring to when they say that!

  6. I just started reading A Paris Wife for my reward--getting through finals week as an English professor. So far I have found it engaging; I picked it up because I needed something intriguing but still substantial. Anyway, I'm getting carried away, but I would like to read Hemingway's memoirs . . . he is intriguing.

  7. This review is from: The Paris Wife: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
    I loved reading the book not as a fan of Hemingway but more because I enjoyed the book itself. It offers a sincere look into how real marriages feel and twists and turns they can take and how easily they can fall apart.