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?