If you know anything about Ernest Hemingway, you probably know that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, that he liked hunting and fishing, that he spent considerable time in the 1920s in Paris, that he was married four times, and that he killed himself with a shotgun. He lived large and died tragically.
I am such a fan of his short stories that I wrote my senior thesis in college partly on those stories.
What you may not know, and what Paula McLain reveals in her remarkable novel THE PARIS WIFE, is how he met his first wife, Hadley Richardson, how madly they were in love, and how she helped to launch his career. Although McLain’s work is historical fiction, it is based on extensive research and comes across as entirely plausible. Hadley’s voice comes through as though she is sitting in the room with us, telling the story.
And what a story it is. The first chapter begins: “The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, ‘It’s possible I’m too drunk to judge, but you might have something there.’” We know how it ends (obviously, he had three other wives), but it’s so romantic, we can’t look away.
This novel is poignant and engrossing. And as Hemingway would say, it feels true. That’s what matters.
(Note: This book came out in 2011. Many thanks to my friend Allison Miller for this great recommendation!)