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The Paris Wife

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The Paris Wife Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. In many ways, Hadley’s girlhood in St. Louis was a difficult and repressive experience. How do her early years prepare her to meet and fall in love with Ernest? What does life with Ernest offer her that she hasn’t encountered before? What are the risks?

2. Hadley and Ernest don’t get a lot of encouragement from their friends and family when they decide to marry. What seems to draw the two together? What are some of the strengths of their initial attraction and partnership? The challenges?

3. The Ernest Hemingway we meet in The Paris Wife—through Hadley’s eyes—is in many ways different from the ways we imagine him when faced with the largeness of his later persona. What do you see as his character strengths? Can you see what Hadley saw in him?

4. Throughout The Paris Wife, Hadley refers to herself as “Victorian” as opposed to “modern.” What are some of the ways she doesn’t feel like she fits into life in bohemian Paris? How does this impact her relationship with Ernest? Her self-esteem? What are some of the ways Hadley’s “old-fashioned” quality can be seen as a strength and not a weakness?

5. Hadley and Ernest’s marriage survived for many years in Jazz-Age Paris, an environment that had very little patience for monogamy and other traditional values. What in their relationship seems to sustain them? How does their marriage differ from those around them? Pound and Shakespear’s? Scott and Zelda’s?

6. Most of The Paris Wife is written in Hadley’s voice, but a few ­select passages come to us from Ernest’s point of view. What ­impact does getting Ernest’s perspective have on our understanding of their marriage? How does it affect your ability to understand him and his motivations in general?

7. How is Hadley challenged and restricted by her gender? Would those restrictions have changed if she had been an artist and not “merely” a wife?

8. One of the most wrenching scenes in the book is when Hadley loses a valise containing all of Ernest’s work to date. What kind of turning point does this mark for the Hemingway’s marriage? Do you think Ernest ever forgives her?

9. Hadley and Ernest had similar upbringings in many ways. What are the parallels, and how do these affect the choices Hadley makes as a wife and mother?

10. In The Paris Wife, when Ernest receives his contract for In Our Time, Hadley says, “He would never again be unknown. We would never again be this happy" (page 195). How did fame ­affect Ernest and his relationship with Hadley?

11. How does the time and place—Paris in the twenties—affect Ernest and Hadley’s marriage? What impact does the war, for instance, have on the choices and behavior of the expatriate artists surrounding the Hemingways? Do you see Ernest changing in response to the world around him? How, and how does Hadley feel about those changes?

12. What was the nature of the relationship between Hadley and Pauline Pfeiffer? Were they legitimately friends? How do you see Pauline taking advantage of her intimate position in the Hemingways’ life? Do you think Hadley is naïve for not suspecting Pauline of having designs on Ernest earlier? Why or why not?

13. It seems as if Ernest tries to make his marriage work even after Pauline arrives on the scene. What would it have cost Hadley to stick it out with Ernest no matter what? Is there a way she could have fought harder for her marriage?

14. In many ways, Hadley is a very different person at the end of the novel than the girl she was when she first encountered Ernest by chance at a party. How do you understand her ­trajectory and transformation? Are there any ways she essentially doesn’t change?

15. When Hemingway’s biographer Carlos Baker interviewed Had­ley Richardson near the end of her life, he expected her to be bitter, and yet she persisted in describing Ernest as a “prince.” How can she have continued to love and admire him after the way he hurt her?

16. Ernest Hemingway spent the last months of his life tenderly ­reliving his first marriage in the pages his memoir, A Moveable Feast. In fact, it was the last thing he wrote before his death. Do you think he realized what he’d truly lost with Hadley?

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Average customer rating based on 11 comments:

Witz, December 19, 2014 (view all comments by Witz)
An introduction into the lives of one famous writer and his "co-dependent" wife long before fame/fortune...

It is a shame that Hadley, Ernest Hemingway's first wife from a very small town, came across as so weak-willed and fawning in this story. I found both of them to be dislikable for different reasons, according the the book's descriptions, though it seemed plausible that Hemingway needed someone to come home to who would be 100% devoted to his needs. Best sections described the vignettes leading up to the writing of "The Sun Also Rises" and how Hadley's presence during all the festivities were erased so that her husband could flirt/then include Brett as the female lead in that story. Writing quality overall is fair but not outstanding in any way.
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Sheila Deeth, November 1, 2014 (view all comments by Sheila Deeth)
Ernest Hemingway, today, seems an acquired taste, one I acquired in college and have neglected ever since. But his wife - Paris wife, first wife - was most certainly an unknown ot me, so it was intriguing to see her brought to life in Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Other famous characters weave in and out the tale - with much weaving due to much consumption of alcohol. And famous events - prohibition, war and more - form a powerful backdrop. But, for me, the most powerful part of the backdrop was the casual name-dropping of even more well-known names from a previous era - not so long-gone after all. Somehow meeting characters who met characters who knew the poets of old made this story all the more absorbing.

The depiction of Europe between the wars, of excess and folly, and a land just opening itself to tourism’s deception, makes an ideal backdrop to a tale where war’s folly and alcohol’s excess will destroy the perfection of true love. Despite their drunkenness and repeated quarrels, the characters remain accessible and believable. And even quiet Hadley has a power of her own, not so retreating as she seems, nor so simperingly weak. There’s a strength in her decisions that grows from the beginning of the novel to its end, and the tragedy of her broken marriage will mirror the tragedies of treaties soon to be broken in a war-wounded world.

The story’s slow at times, but occasional glimpses into Hemingway’s thoughts, the weaving of well-known characters with strangers, and the convincing depiction of Hadley’s gradual growth makes it a powerful, fascinating tale, to be savored and enjoyed.

Disclosure: A kind friend loaned me her copy.
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AnnS, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by AnnS)
Having read The Movable Feast, this is enjoyable. Even though it is fiction, I find that I remember sections of The Movable Feast very clearly. It is interesting to read from Hadley's point of view. Good read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345521316
Author:
McLain, Paula
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Subject:
General-General
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20121127
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
7.98 x 5.34 x 0.9 in 0.72 lb

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The Paris Wife Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345521316 Reviews:
"Review" by , “A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s — as a wife and as one’s own woman.”
"Review" by , “[Paula] McLain has brought Hadley [Hemingway] to life in a novel that begins in a rush of early love....A moving portrait of a woman slighted by history, a woman whose...story needed to be told.”
"Review" by , The Paris Wife creates the kind of out-of-body reading experience that dedicated book lovers yearn for, nearly as good as reading Hemingway for the first time — and it doesn’t get much better than that.”
"Review" by , “Exquisitely evocative....This absorbing, illuminating book gives us an intimate view of a sympathetic and perceptive woman, the striving writer she married, the glittering and wounding Paris circle they were part of....McLain reinvents the story of Hadley and Ernest’s romance with the lucid grace of a practiced poet.”
"Review" by , “A novel that’s impossible to resist. It’s all here, and it all feels real.”
"Synopsis" by , An instant national bestseller, this stunningly evocative, beautifully rendered story told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, has the same power and historical richness that made Loving Frank a bestseller.

No twentieth-century American writer has captured the popular imagination as much as Ernest Hemingway. This novel tells his story from a unique point of view — that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation and meet fascinating characters such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. The city and its inhabitants provide a vivid backdrop to this engrossing and wrenching story of love and betrayal that is made all the more poignant knowing that, in the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, "I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her."

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