- Fritzi Newton
Paris retains an eternal allure for the creative. And the gifted expatriates who flocked to the City of Lights in the 1920s often felt the hallowed pursuit of their individual muses justified unconventional personal behavior. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain chronicles the courtship and subsequent marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway—a relationship strained and eventually damaged by their friends’ hedonistic lifestyles.
Hadley, who was seven years his senior, met her future husband in Chicago. Although quite the ladies’ man, Hemingway was immediately drawn to her wholesome beauty, even temperament, and courage. Hadley’s unconditional support bolstered Hemingway, a man already plagued by multiple demons, and gave him the companionship he needed to wholeheartedly pursue his writing.
Initially, the wonder of marriage fulfilled them both. But as Hemingway found his footing in the literary world, he began to chafe at the confines of domesticity. Ezra Pound, an established author and mentor to Hemingway, was married to one woman, yet was publicly involved with another. Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott, spoke freely of her recent suitor who had killed himself for unrequited love. Stylish women, often with no visible means of support, hung on the periphery like modern-day groupies.
The arrival of their first child gave Hadley’s life definition, but it further tethered Hemingway. The man who originally scoffed at the trappings of wealth now pursued the luxuries that money could provide. And the constant attention of fawning women eventually proved too great a temptation.
In The Paris Wife, McLain has written a compelling novel capturing the vibrancy and poignant heart ache of a period during which Hemingway and his cronies transitioned from unknowns into celebrated international figures.