The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is the story about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson. Though it is a work of fiction, it is so well researched and detailed that it seems like non-fiction. Written in first person mostly through Hadley’s eyes it makes the reader feel they are with them. It is the story of the love, literature and drama set during their lives in the 1920’s. McLain’s descriptions of the Hemingway’s and their circle is an intensely compelling tale.
Ernest Hemingway was an unknown struggling writer who just returned home from World War 1 when he met Hadley. She had lived a sheltered life and theirs was an immediate attraction. This led to marriage to the surprise of those who knew Hemingway. Ernest decided Paris would be a wonderful experience for a writer at the urging of friend. Hadley was happy to go.
Hadley and Hemingway were a perfect pair. She kept up with his late nights, drinking, and traveling. They worked hard and partied the days and nights away. She was right beside him at each step. When he was off writing, she was home waiting and ready, supporting his genius before the world found out about his talent. Their friendships with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and many other greats of the time influenced them both greatly. Hemingway had others to critique and compete with him in his craft, while Hadley enjoyed their times together as wonderful friends and because she knew it helped Ernest.
They were a team and he wanted her with him as much as possible. It was all about what he needed and wanted. She did not seem to feel slighted or second best. She loved him completely and without judgment though at times his writing could be cruel and end friendships. They traveled all over Europe for work and play. They had a son which made her even more happy and their bond deeper. Everyone around them marveled at their connection especially Pauline Pfieffer. She seemed to be a friend just for Hadley, but in reality wanted Ernest and their life together. Hadley’s strength and love for Ernest at this time was a true example of how important she was in the building of an American legend.