Thursday, November 3, 2011

Column No. 5 November 3, 2011

“The Paris Wife”

I’ve never been much of a Hemingway fan. In fact, I have never liked Hemingway. I have tried on numerous occasions to read some of his novels and have never gotten very far. I know that makes me some kind of pariah in the world of readers, but there are a lot of writers out there that I SHOULD like but just can’t enjoy.
            Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, is the subject of the novel “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. When I saw the synopsis of “The Paris Wife,” I wanted to know what kind of woman would have married a man like Hemingway. Apparently many women, as he was married four times, but I wanted to know who was the first in that line of “life partners.”
            Hadley Richardson was in her late twenties when she met Hemingway, who was a young, philandering, broke writer in Chicago. She came from money and had a small trust that they lived off of for most of their marriage.
            Soon after they were married, Ernest and Hadley moved to Paris so that Hemingway could be inspired in his writing. They ran with a crowd of eccentric expatriates boasting the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.
            Jazz era Paris was not the Paris that one sees in the movies today. It was gritty, dirty, and unfashionable. But these modernist writers made it what it would become just by being there.
            For a short time Hemingway tried his hand at playing the provider, through small journalistic assignments that took him out of the country and away from Hadley, in more ways than one. But these assignments were not his passion, and he soon decided to focus on his fiction writing.
            It took a long time before Hemingway became a successful writer, financially. Hadley stayed by his side the entire time. She was the ideal supportive wife—keeping house, saving money wherever she could, and going without comforts and necessities so that her husband could live his dream.
             Hemingway became obsessed with bullfights in Spain and took yearly trips with Hadley and their Paris friends to participate in the exciting world of fiesta brava. These trips became the inspiration for his novel “The Sun Also Rises.” Hadley stayed beside him through his obsession, even when she feared he was having affairs with their traveling companions.
            Hadley forgave Hemingway his eccentricities and indiscretions until his ultimate betrayal of their marriage. This became the deception that led to the unraveling of the marriage that everyone thought would last. 
            Although this is a fictional account of the marriage between Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway, the events are true. There is no doubt about the love that existed between these two ill-matched people. And I have read numerous times that Hadley was ultimately the love of Ernest’s life and his one regret.
            This book kept me interested. It kept me angry. It kept me intrigued. I felt sympathy for this woman who just wanted a typical marriage and family with this atypical man. This book made me want to attempt to read Hemingway’s works again. I want to see if I can find some of the people that I read about in this story. I don’t know if I will ever get around to it. But it did pique my interest in a writer in whom I had no previous interest whatsoever.

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