Anyone with kids in afterschool sports or activities knows that there is often that dead time during which you are – well – waiting.  With three kids in hockey as well as several school sports and activities, I have done some “waiting” time bordering on excessive, even by Department of Motor Vehicles standards.  I use this time wisely by catching up on really useful information and neighbourhood gossip like who is sleeping with whom, and which neighbourhood my teenagers have decided to vandalize next (hoping those two subjects NEVER overlap).  Occasionally, I will retreat to my sanctuary – if there is a bench in the arena foyer – and just read.  And so, the category “Hammock reading…” is part of my dustbunny chronicles (even though I rarely read while lounging in a hammock… it’s just such an incredible mental image).

 Anyway, I think Hadley Richardson Hemingway is haunting me. 

 First, I wrote a  post a couple of summers ago about Ernest Hemingway’s book, A Moving Feast, written about his expatriate days in Paris in the 1920’s .  Though a great summertime read it was, inspiring me to work harder on this craft that is writing, I was haunted by the lesser character in the book, Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s wife (his first of four).  

Soon thereafter, I stumbled across the Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song called Mrs. Hemingway and wrote about it as well, thrilled that I’d encountered another artist who’d felt a deep enough connection with Hadley to write a song about her.  Perhaps Mary was haunted too.

Then, when I was in San Francisco this past summer, the SFMOMA was exhibiting The Steins Collect, a selection of siblings Leo and Gertrude Stein’s magnificent art collection from their own days in turn-of-the-century Paris as contemporaries of the Hemingways.  I went to the exhibit, expecting to find Hadley lurking, but she was nowhere to be found. 

And then Fall rolled around with back-to-school and back-to-hockey (read: back-to-waiting), and along with it, back-to-book-club for me.  I learned it was my turn to host one of our book discussions and guess which book caught my eye on the shelves of our local libary?  I picked up The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, because Hadley was pestering me once again! 

The Paris Wife is about Hadley Richardson’s relationship with Ernest Hemingway, written from Hadley’s point of view.  All the nagging questions I’d asked to myself during my reading of A Moving Feast were answered in The Paris Wife. Though it is a historical fiction, McLain takes great pains to stay as true to fact as possible.  McLain’s literary story, and the Hemingway’s love story, began with Ernest and Hadley meeting in Chicago, continuing a brief long-distance relationship when she returned to St. Louis, and them marrying a few short months later.  Though they originally intended to move to Rome, they were convinced by friends that all the great literary talent had descended upon Paris.  So began the Hemingway’s five-year residency in Paris and so continues the book.   

Hadley shared all her secrets with me in The Paris Wife, in a way that Ernest could never do in A Moving Feast.  I felt as liberated as she did ditching her protective guardians in St. Louis, her sister and her sister’s husband, and breaking with societal norms by moving to Paris with her new husband.  From Hadley, I heard all about Ernest’s frustration and exhilaration in writing In Our Time, and I could sympathize with her inability to conform to gaie Paris.  I tagged along with Hadley and Hemingway as she accompanied him on his trips to Spain, where the inspiration for The Sun Also Rises was born, and I could totally bask in Hadley’s skiing adventures in Austria.  Author McLain planted many seeds of sorrow by weaving in the occasional page or two, italizcized to catch my attention, and written in the voice of Ernest Hemingway instead of Hadley.  In this way, I knew long before Hadley that her marriage was about to unravel … a foreshadowing that troubled me as a reader because I could not warn her.

I felt like I was a character in this book rather than a mere bystander. 

I’m not sure if Hadley’s hauntings are over.  Now, thanks to Monica over at Monica’s Tangled Web, I have a growing inclination to visit Key West, if for no reason than to give the ghost of Ernest Hemingway a piece of my mind for being such a lout to poor Hadley. 

I have also since come to the conclusion though, that she and I were together as friends in The Paris Wife, Hadley and I differed greatly in that she was ultimately satisfied to be the secondary in Hemingway’s life and remained very much in love with him.  His first and only true love, however, was always his writing.  That is an understanding that I’m not sure I could reach with the love of my life.

I hope Hadley will share a hammock with you soon; I’m sure you will enjoy her company.  I just wonder where she’ll show up next?

Have you ever been haunted?

16 Responses to I am haunted by Hadley: a review of The Paris Wife

  • I just downloaded a sample of that book in my iBook app yesterday. Can’t wait to read it after your review! Have you seen midnight in Paris? You might like it!

    • Oh Julie! I have not seen Midnight in Paris but just watched the trailer based on your comment and YES! Sounds like it’s the *perfect* movie for me to see! What are the chances of those dastardly children of mine sitting through it ???? Never mind, who cares?

  • Yes, I’ve been haunted. For years, I was haunted by Patty Duke in her portrayal of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” Don’t ask me why, I was a kid then. But now I feel like I’m haunted by this book. Several people have recently mentioned to me how much they liked reading it, and I tell them, they must go see Hemingway’s house in Key West. You can almost feel his presence there. I feel that the locals do all they can to keep his memory alive and it’s working. Plus there are dozens and dozens of photos of him, his celebrity pals, all scattered throughout his home. You can lose yourself there, literally.
    Thanks for the mention!

    • Thanks for reading, Monica. I understand there’s a certain cove in Cuba where he was well known among the locals too. I love Cuba (have visited it twice), but me thinks Key West must be our next “sun” destination from the looooonnnnggg coooooooold Canadian winter 🙂

  • Thanks for your kind comment on my blog. I am afraid that I don’t know Canadian idioms, so feel free to guest post on my blog!
    I like your style – you have a talent for writing. Just like you, I have dead times during the day. I actually like it. As for Hadley, I don’t know how she managed to live with such a husband. I have been haunted by Edmond Dantes, from “The Count Of Monte Cristo”, Alexandre Dumas. To this date it remains one of my favourite books.

    • Merçi, Muriel! I appreciate the encouragement and thanks to you for visiting me as well. Here are a couple of French-Canadian sayings to whet your whistle!
      “La rondelle ne roule pas pour lui” – The puck (aka “life”) just isn’t going his way…
      “Aussi faux que les diamants Canadiens” – as fake as Candian diamonds (explorer Jacques Cartier was fooled by the quartz and iron pyrite around here)

  • The Paris Wife was one of the best books I’ve read in ages. I loved every minute of it. It made me adore Ernest Hemingway even more. I did feel for his wife, but he was so unique and so tortured and so gifted. It was a wonderful book.

  • What a wonderful post! Now I will have to move ‘The Paris Wife’ higher on my book list. It sounds like something I wouldn’t be able to put down. I loved Midnight in Paris. Such a difficult but inspiring premise and terrific Allen lines. Thanks for the fun read!

    • I can’t wait to see Midnight in Paris! I guess now I will have to wait for the video release in December. Thanks for stopping by and adding your note 🙂

  • I think I am more haunted by characters or ideas that I want to work on but am sometimes time challenged and not able to write, which makes me nutty. I love the MCC song you mentioned. And just so you know, MOMA is a block from my office. So sorry to have missed you here.. I have this book on my wish list to read, but there are four or five books ahead of it. I am seriously time challenged lately. I will need to rethink my need for sleep.

    • Yes, Brenda, I can see that of your characters – that they might haunt you – at least those that you’ve shared with us! I think that is why I’m finding my newbie Nano experience so very challenging… my character is not haunting me and I don’t feel I know her well enough yet.
      That IS too bad our paths came so very close to crossing….considering how far apart we actually live! Another time perhaps! Oh – and do not rethink sleep – it’s a vital function 🙂

  • This is like seven degrees of separation. I attended Essoyes Writing School in the village of Essoyes, France last fall. Known for being a home of Renoir’s and having recently opened a museum in his studio there, I began a love affair with his work. My room at Hotel des Canotiers – the rooms are all named for Renoir’s models – had the name and reproduction of Alphonsine. This may seem like an unusual name, but my great-grandfather’s name was Alphonso. Then when I was in Musee D’Orsay, there was the original right before me. Flash forward a few months and at a writing retreat in Asheville, NC I ended up in the Biltmore House which I have toured on numerous occassions – I’m from NC and have relatives in Asheville. Never before had I noticed the Renoirs there. It was like he was haunting me. Interestingly enough, my writing instructor reccomended ‘A Moveable Feast’ by Ernest Hemingway after I commented on purchasinng ‘The Paris Wife’, insisting that I read it first – the path you naturally took. I don’t know about you, but these words of his haunt me as well; “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but Hadley.” Now I’ve found your blog because of ‘The Paris Wife’. That is my haunting, seven degrees of separation, little tale. Enjoy the haunting. I feel it is a kind of muse.

    • Thanks for sharing this remarkable story! Funny how the little sidebars along our paths become stories/pastimes/adventures of themselves! I recall reading those words of Hemgingway and I think they are reiterated in The Paris Wife… Enjoy both!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your haunting 🙂

  • I read about this book on another blog as well. I am not a big fan of Hemingway. His writing, that is. As an English teacher – an AMERICAN literature teacher on top of it – this is almost blasphemous. I think I might be interested in this book, though. It certainly sounds intriguing. And I have to say, if you haven’t made it to Key West yet, you must go. It is by no means a classy affair, but it’s fun for a weekend of debauchery and fun in the sun.

    • I’m not that fond of Hemingway either having had him shoved down my throat in highschool. I’d be interested in knowing YOUR favourite American lit authors! A Moveable Feast is a little different from his other works, I have found. I read it over a summer vacation for one, but also as I was doubting myself and this whole ‘writer’ gig (I DO have a full time job that is totally unrelated to writing, but still … I wonder ….) and found his effort and diligence inspiring enough.
      And yes, Key West: now a quest.

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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