Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Audio)

The Paris Wife
by Paula McLain
narrated by Carrington McDuffie
Random House Audio, 2011
11 hours and 27 minutes
source: purchased

Quick summary from
If what they say is true — that behind every great man there’s a great woman — then Hadley Richardson is the woman behind Ernest Hemingway. In the novel The Paris Wife, Paula McLain traces their relationship from its frowned-upon beginnings in Chicago to its painful end in Paris six years later, and narrator Carrington MacDuffie brings a cast of historical characters out of the required reading list and brightly to life.

My Thoughts:
Whatever your opinion of Ernest Hemingway's writing, the writer himself was certainly larger than life. Last year, I read Catherine Reef's biography geared toward young adults. This year I thoroughly enjoyed A Moveable Feast and the movie Midnight in Paris. Craving more Hemingway, I turned to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

It is told from the perspective of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, and recounts their relationship from initial meeting through the tumultuous breakup six years later. During this time, Hemingway wrote many stories and a novel that would become The Sun Also Rises.  McLain includes many details of his writing process and, midway through the book, I purchased a copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway  in order to read the stories as they were mentioned.

Other members of the 'Lost Generation', Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, figure prominently in the story and add further color the novel. I doubt I'll ever tire of reading about this time and place.

The Paris Wife is not a book to race through. It's pace is slow, leisurely, and pleasant - easy to put aside and pick up again later. I thoroughly enjoyed Hadley's voice and insights, and admire McLain's creativity for her unique approach.

A note on the audio production:
This was my first experience with Carrington McDuffie. Her tone, inflection, and pace seemed perfectly matched to the novel. Her name in the credits will be a positive influence in choosing future audiobooks.

My rating:

Bottom line: Highly recommended to anyone interested in Ernest Hemingway, Paris, and the 'Lost Generation'.


  1. I have to try this one again. After we read A Moveable Feast I was really looking forward to it, but it just didn't grab me and I ended up having to return the print book to the library before I got very far. I love what you said about it taking the characters out of the required reading Dickens biog. I'm reading now is definitely doing that for me, with him!

  2. I saw that this novel won a GoodReads award so I wanted to check it out because I had no idea what it was about. It sounds wonderful--I'm a once and future Hemingway fan (used to like him, moved on, and coming to appreciate his work again).

    I enjoy audio books, so I might see if my library will get me this version. Sounds marvelous.

    Thanks for the take-it-slow-and-savor advice. Sounds like a good book to fill in the gaps.

  3. I so loved this book. It's definitely in my top ten list for 2011, and I agree with you about how it's almost a necessary companion for A Moveable Feast. I was greatly enriched by reading both.

  4. This one is on my wish list. Hemingway's life is certainly fascinating so I am anxious to see everything from his wife's point of view, even if it's fictionalized.

  5. Audrey - The "taking characters out of the required reading list" came from the audible review. I just loved the line and had to use it, too! Wonder if this would work better for you on audio?

    JaneGS - I guess I'm a once and future Hemingway fan, too! Hope your library has this on audio. I even listened to it a couple of times in the middle of the night when I couldn't fall back to sleep!

    Bellezza - I don't think I would have appreciated this nearly as much without having A Moveable Feast so fresh in my mind. Now if I can just make time for The Sun Also Rises...

    Reviewsbylola - If you haven't already read A Moveable Feast, I would highly recommend reading it first. While listening to The Paris Wife, I had to keep reminding myself that it is fiction!

  6. I have my name on the list for the audio version at the library. After reading your review, I wish they would hurry up and get it to me. In my younger years I was quite captivated with Hemingway and read nearly everything he wrote. I thought The Paris Wife would make a nice way to take another look at him and perhaps reread a novel or two. I'm also interested in the collection of short stories you mentioned.

  7. I loved this book! After Midnight in Paris I read several books on Hemingway and the Lost Generation. One of the best was "We Were All So Young" about Gerald and Sara Murphy.

  8. Margot - I hope you don't have to wait too much longer for this audio. One of my New Year's resolutions is to get back into the Short Story Monday habit. I've still been reading them, but can't seem to get a post together on Monday. Maybe I'll start writing them ahead of time.

    Sunday Taylor - I'll be reading more books about/by the Lost Generation. Plan to reread Tender is the Night early next year and have added We Were All So Young to my wish list. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Glad u enjoyed this JoAnn, as I have it on my iPod - 2012 I hope. I love Hemingway.

  10. I love this book. I think Hadley, rather than being the 'great woman', alas, was a silent suffering wife. I'm so glad that Paula McLain chose to write a novel from her POV.

    I was visiting Toronto when I read this book and found out that Hadley gave birth to Bumby there. The Hemingway went to Toronto (where Hemingway used to work) just to give birth to the baby because of the better health care than Paris. I did some research and went to the street address they used to live. Now it's an apartment bldg. aptly named "The Hemingway". If you're interested, here are the photos.

    Also, there will be a movie adaptation of The Paris Wife coming up. I sure hope they have a good cast to do it.


  11. I absolutely loved this book -- and I bet the audio was fantastic. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

  12. This is one I must get to somehow!

  13. This sounds like something I'd really enjoy. I've been meaning to read A Moveable Feast for ages, but I did watch and enjoyed Midnight in Paris. Like you, I was left in the mood for more.

  14. Diane - I think you'd like this one, too.

    Rippleeffects - Thanks so much for the link to your review/pictures! Very excited to hear about a movie adaptation, too.

    Col - The reader added so much to the audio production.

    Mystica - I hope you get to read this!

    Nymeth - You should definitely read A Moveable Feast at some point. I'm looking forward to the DVD release of Midnight in Paris later this month... can't wait to see it again!

  15. I'm the oddball here as I thought The Paris Wife was bereft of feeling and Hadley was enormously boring. Hoping for some great descriptions of Paris, I was disappointed. It seemed just like a list of how much and what they drank and who was sleeping with whom. Glad you enjoyed it.

  16. Kaye - I've read a few other reviews that share your opinion, so you are definitely not alone. They sure didn't lead a 'quiet' life ;-)


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