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The Paris Wife

Cover of The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife

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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...
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...
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Description-
  • 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."

    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, "It's possible I'm too drunk to judge, but you might have something there."

    It's October 1920 and jazz is everywhere. I don't know any jazz, so I'm playing Rachmaninoff. I can feel a flush beginning in my cheeks from the hard cider my dear pal Kate Smith has stuffed down me so I'll relax. I'm getting there, second by second. It starts in my fingers, warm and loose, and moves along my nerves, rounding through me. I haven't been drunk in over a year--not since my mother fell seriously ill--and I've missed the way it comes with its own perfect glove of fog, settling snugly and beautifully over my brain. I don't want to think and I don't want to feel, either, unless it's as simple as this beautiful boy's knee inches from mine.

    The knee is nearly enough on its own, but there's a whole package of a man attached, tall and lean, with a lot of very dark hair and a dimple in his left cheek you could fall into. His friends call him Hemingstein, Oinbones, Bird, Nesto, Wemedge, anything they can dream up on the spot. He calls Kate Stut or Butstein (not very flattering!), and another fellow Little Fever, and yet another Horney or the Great Horned Article. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know the same jokes and stories. They telegraph punch lines back and forth in code, lightning fast and wisecracking. I can't keep up, but I don't mind really. Being near these happy strangers is like a powerful transfusion of good cheer.

    When Kate wanders over from the vicinity of the kitchen, he points his perfect chin at me and says, "What should we name our new friend?"

    "Hash," Kate says.

    "Hashedad's better," he says. "Hasovitch."

    "And you're Bird?" I ask.

    "Wem," Kate says.

    "I'm the fellow who thinks someone should be dancing." He smiles with everything he's got, and in very short order, Kate's brother Kenley has kicked the living room carpet to one side and is manning the Victrola. We throw ourselves into it, dancing our way through a stack of records. He's not a natural, but his arms and legs are free in their joints, and I can tell that he likes being in his body. He's not the least shy about moving in on me either. In no time at all our hands are damp and clenched, our cheeks close enough that I can feel the very real heat of him. And that's when he finally tells me his name is Ernest.

    "I'm thinking of giving it away, though. Ernest is so dull, and Hemingway? Who wants a Hemingway?"

    Probably every girl between here and Michigan Avenue, I think, looking at my feet to keep from blushing. When I look up again, he has his brown eyes locked on me.

    "Well? What do you think? Should I toss it out?"

    "Maybe not just yet. You never know. A name like that could catch on, and where would you be if you'd ditched it?"

    "Good point. I'll take it under consideration."

    A slow number starts, and without asking, he reaches for my waist and scoops me toward his body, which is even better up close. His chest is solid and so are his arms. I rest my hands on them lightly as he backs me around the room, past Kenley cranking the Victrola with glee, past Kate giving us a long, curious look. I close my eyes and lean into Ernest, smelling bourbon and soap, tobacco and damp cotton--and everything about this moment is so sharp and lovely, I do something completely out of character and just let myself have it.

    TWO

    There's a song from that time by Nora Bayes called "Make Believe," which might have been the most lilting and persuasive treatise on self-delusion I'd ever heard. Nora Bayes was beautiful, and she sang with a...

About the Author-
  • PAULA MCLAIN was born in Fresno, CA in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could -- and wanted to -- write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and since then has been a resident at Yaddo and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family (Little Brown, 2003), and one previous and well-received novel, A Ticket to Ride. Paula McLain lives in Cleveland, OH with her family.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    "McLain creates a compelling, spellbinding portrait of a marriage. . . . Women of all ages and situations will sympathize as they follow this seemingly charmed union to its inevitable demise. Colorful details of the expat life in Jazz Age Paris, combined with the evocative story of the Hemingways' romance, result in a compelling story that will undoubtedly establish McLain as a writer of substance. Highly recommended for all readers of popular fiction."

  • Publishers Weekly "McLain offers a vivid addition to the complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre, bringing Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, to life . . . McLain ably portrays the cultural icons of the 1920s--Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra and Dorothy Pound--and the impact they have on the then unknown Hemingway, casting Hadley as a rock of Gibraltar for a troubled man whose brilliance and talent were charged and compromised by his astounding capacity for alcohol and women . . . The heart of the story--Ernest and Hadley's relationship--gets an honest reckoning, most notably the waves of elation and despair that pull them apart."
  • USA Today "McLain smartly explores Hadley's ambivalence about her role as supportive wife to a budding genius. . . . Women and book groups are going to eat up this novel."
  • Entertainment Weekly "A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s. . . . McLain's vivid, clear-voiced novel is a conjecture, an act of imaginary autobiography on the part of the author. Yet her biographical and geographical research is so deep, and her empathy for the real Hadley Richardson so forthright (without being intrusively femme partisan), that the account reads as very real indeed."
  • Booklist " . . . Paula McLain brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway out from the formidable shadow cast by her famous husband. Much more than a "woman-behind-the-man" homage, this beautifully crafted tale is an unsentimental tribute to a woman who acted with grace and strength as her marriage crumbled."
  • Town and Country "Told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, is a richly imagined portrait of bohemian 1920s Paris, and of American literature's original bad boy."
  • Kirkus "The closing pages, in particular, are both evocative and moving, taking in the sweep of events over a third of a century and providing a resolution that, if not neat, is wholly in character. A pleasure to read--and a pleasure to see Hadley Richardson presented in a sympathetic light."
  • Marie Claire "It's hard to imagine that the world needs another book about Hemingway in the City of Light. (Really, the lost valise again?) Yet here comes Paula McLain's marvelous new novel, The Paris Wife, which explores those absinthe-soaked days through the eyes of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson . . . it is precisely Hadley's steady moral compass and devotion to her rising-star husband that provides the novel with its heart and, ultimately, its heartbreak . . ."
  • The Boston Globe "Some of us think that a light romance novel or a plot-driven thriller is just what we need for that long lazy summer afternoon, while other's look for something with more depth and substance. Finding the perfect balance in one book seems almost impossible, but if you're looking for a poignant romance that offers both substance and sustenance, I have a book for you. . ."
  • Historical Novels Review "[Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson's] story is a delightful and tense journey from the highs of love, dependency and ascendancy to a gradual decline of those same qualities and ideals . . . The Paris Wife is a lyrical novel that is beautifully written on every single page. Paula McLain is as talented as the writer and his wife depicted herein. Stunning!"
  • Edmonton Journal "The novel is marvelous."
  • Toronto Sun ". . . Compelling . . ."
  • Nancy Horan, bestselling author of Loving Frank "The Paris Wife is mesmerizing. Hadley Hemingway's voice, lean and lyrical, kept me in my seat, unable to take my eyes and ears away from these young lovers. Paula McLain is a first-rate writer who creates a world you don't want to leave. I loved this book."
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    Doubleday Canada
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