Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
I'd heard lots of buzz about Paula McLain's book The Paris Wife around the same time that people in my MFA program were reading A Moveable Feast, so I decided to read the two simultaneously. Sometimes I like to do this-- read Ahab's Wife and Moby Dick one after the other, for example (although I never did finish Moby Dick) or a biography of Julia Child and her cookbooks. Both The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast deal with the years that Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson lived in Paris. Hadley was Hemingway's first wife, and while McLain does go into her interior story in greater depth than we get in A Moveable Feast, it's easy to see that A Moveable Feast is the inspiration for The Paris Wife.
As a book, I enjoyed it well enough. I knew enough about Hemingway's disastrous romantic relationships to know that the book would not end well (it reminded me quite a bit of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and because of that I made sure to read the wikipedia article on Hadley before getting too engrossed in the novel, because if she was going to be chopped up by some crazed servant, I wanted to know before I let myself get too into the story). She didn't get chopped up, but the end was tragic in the short run and ultimately redeeming.
I found myself empathizing a lot with Hadley. Despite seeing myself as a strong modern feminist, I've put off a lot of my own ambitions in favor of being a wife and a mother. It's worked out well for me for the last decade and a half, but it didn't work out so well for Hadley, and she seemed utterly lost for a certain period in the novel, unable to leave Ernest because she had no life apart from him, but also unable to stay in a relationship that had become untenable. Nearly a century later, I think we as women have it better than Hadley did, but I'm not sure how much better.