Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris WifeMy latest read was The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.

The plot centers on the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, "The Paris Wife." It follows them through their courting days in the US, their obscurity and struggles while he's trying to "make it" as a writer in Paris, and then as a "successful" artistic couple living the Bohemian international life in a circle of wealthy and famous friends. While the writing itself is fictional, it's based on actual events in the real lives of the Hemingways, so it's an odd blend of fiction and biography.

The book is summed up well by this quote:

Ernest once told me that the word paradise was a Persian word that meant "walled garden." I knew then that he understood how necessary the promises we made to each other were to our happiness. You couldn't have real freedom unless you knew where the walls were and tended them.

This quote occurs near the end of the novel, and sadly, everything leading up to this point is about how those boundaries that are so necessary for a healthy marriage were allowed to crumble.

This book was well-written, and I did find it interesting, in spite of the fact that I don't care much for Hemingway. I care less for him now after reading this book. He struck me as a completely self-centered, egotistical, proud, ungrateful wretch who used people to get what he wanted, and then threw them under the bus when it became convenient. Considering he took his own life after a string of four marriages and many other illicit relationships, he seems to have been a pretty miserable person, in spite of his "success" as a writer.

The story is depressing - it's sad to see their relationship unravel as they become more and more like the "bohemian" (aka licentious and immoral) culture they've surrounded themselves with in early 20th Century Paris. But I think the author makes a pretty strong case for fidelity by showing how miserable unfaithfulness makes everyone involved - including the guilty parties.

A few words of caution: there are a couple of brief but graphic explicit scenes, as well as a few curse words scattered throughout - enough to make me hesitant to recommend it to anyone.   

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

View all my reviews


2012 Reading in Review

Hi there.
Before I update my "What I'm Reading" page to include my 2013 books, I thought I'd recap the books I read in 2012 here and share a few favorites with you. I managed to complete 22 books last year, which wasn't as many as I'd hoped, but we had a lot going on last year. I'm hoping to have more free time to read this year, but in the end, I think the quality of books you read is more important than the quantity, so I'm not going to get hung up on numbers.
Some of the following books have links to longer reviews, in case you'd like to know more about them. Others I never got around to reviewing, so I added a few thoughts below.
Books I Read in 2012:
  1. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton - Typical Chesterton - witty, brilliant, hilarious, insightful, profound, and highly-quotable. I'll be revisiting this one for sure.
  2. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay -  An excellent, well-written, tragically poignant and compelling novel about World War II and the Holocaust. Keep the tissues handy.
  3. The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith - A hilarious addition to the Scotland Street series. This series is perfect if you're looking for something entertaining and light - just right for the beach.
  4. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick - If you've got a difficult person in your life, this book could be extremely helpful to you.
  5. Jesus in My Art by Robin Norgren - Read my full review HERE. There's a chapter featuring yours truly in this book, in case you're interested. I was honored to be included.
  6. Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware - This was good, although I was expecting it to be more of a "how-to" for parents rather than a devotional to read to kids... but it would be a great book to read with your kids. He definitely leans more towards Calvinistic theology than I do, but he's got a lot of good stuff in there nevertheless.
  7. Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment by Ian Osborn - An interesting look at three different historical figures (Martin Luther is one) and the possibility that they may have struggled with some obsessive-compulsive tendencies (compulsive fears, etc.). Osborn suggests that faith and better theology may be the cure.
  8. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson - Read my full review HERE.
  9. Whiter than Snow:Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp - Read my full review HERE.
  10. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry - Read my full review HERE.
  11. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - Read my full review HERE.
  12. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon - Read my full review HERE.
  13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - Read my full review HERE.
  14. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn - Read my full review HERE.
  15. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell - If you like Jane Austen, you will probably enjoy this book. Although there's no over-arching plot line or love story going on, you will come to love the eccentric old ladies of this small town and enjoy watching them deal with the predicaments in which they find themselves.
  16. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend - Read my full review HERE.
  17. I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson - Read my full review HERE.
  18. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - Read my full review HERE.
  19. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - Read my full review HERE.
  20. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation! by Lynne Truss - Read my full review HERE.
  21. A Gal Named Jo by DeeDee Hall - Read my full review HERE.
  22. The Defender's Study Bible (KJV) - I read through this every year. I used THIS reading plan.
Audio Books I Listened to in 2012:
  1. The Litigators by John Grisham
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Homes by Arthur Conan Doyle

(I'm an Amazon Associate, so consider yourself disclosed.)

If I had to choose three favorites to recommend to you (besides the Bible, obviously), they would be the following:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
At Home by Bill Bryson
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
As far as my reading for 2013 goes, I've completed The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo so far, and I'm well on my way into The Paris Wife by Paula McLain now. I will probably have reviews of both up for you soon.

Later on this year, I may be taking part in another blog project that involves several ladies from different walks of life sharing book reviews, but I've got to get this move to Spain sorted out before I take on anything else! In the meantime, I'll still be sharing reviews here when I have time.
So, what are you reading right now?  Feel free to share recommendations or links to your reading list in the comments! Happy reading!