#350 ~ The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Published by: Random House

Published on: February 2011

Page Count: 320

Genre: JHistorical Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased with Audible credits

Audiobook Published by: Random House Audio

Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie

Audiobook Length: 11 hours 21 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and audiobook

My Review

Hadley Richardson lived a less than charmed life. She had a tragic accident as a young child and had been treated as frail ever since. She, along with her father, was prone to depressive episodes. They could be extremely dibilitating and, in fact, her father ended up killing suicide. By the time she was 28, she was too busy carring for her mother to get married. Her self-esteem was shot the day she met 20 year old Ernest Hemingway. Against all odds, the two fell in love and were married. Soon thereafter, they moved to Paris so that Ernest could better pursue his writing career. It takes two people to make a marriage work. In the end, Hadley and Ernest, who so desperately needed it each to start their adult lives and break away from parents and everything else holding them back, could not overcome their individual demons.

Entering The Paris Wife, I wanted to love every ounce of it. I love Ernest Hemingway and his attachment to Michigan. I knew going in that the marriage wouldn’t last, but I was looking forward to seeing Paris in the midst of a romance. Luckily the book was narrated by Carrington MacDuffie. This was my first listen to her work and I found her narration to play a role in why I liked the book as much as I did. Her voice conveyed Hadley’s joys, anxieties and frustrations very well. I did feel as though I enjoyed the book while I was listening. It is a testament to her abilities that I didn’t stop and consider whether I really enjoyed the book until after it was finished.

In the end, The Paris Wife gave some incite into the lives of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway, but it lacked the energy I would have expected. Here you have Ernest Hemingway, bull fighting, war, skiing and traveling from continent to continent, but I never felt the passion. I never really understood why they married. Hadley never lost her self doubt. It was as if she was continually trying to reassure him that he made the right choice. She was always so tentative.

In a year of some truly wonderful books, The Paris Wife stands out to me because it was just okay. I don’t know if this is necessarily a fair way to think about a book, but it’s lack of energy bothered me the more I thought about it. It isn’t that I was looking for a happy ending. I knew going in that the marriage failed and Hemingway committed suicide. On her website, the author speaks about finding Hadley and Ernest’s correspondence “delicious” and about how she fell in love with her. I wish I had the same experience reading the book. I didn’t not like The Paris Wife, but I can’t recommend the book as much as I recommend Carrington MacDuffie.

I’m posting this review today to participate in Jen at Devourer of Books‘ weekly Sound Bytes meme. If you have an audiobook review to post, why not participate with us?



  • At 2011.08.12 07:38, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    Sorry this wasn’t your favorite. I do think the spouses of larger than life characters are sometimes reticent and withdrawn. I’ll have to remember that Sound Bytes is on Fridays – I’m almost through with my latest audio book.

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    • At 2011.08.12 08:12, rhapsodyinbooks said:

      I’m sad to hear this about this book, because I loved A Moveable Feast, and was hoping this would be a good companion sort of book!

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      • At 2011.08.12 10:04, Mary said:

        I think if I’d read the book (instead of listened to the audiobook) I would have given up on it. The narrator kept me listening but I admit to doing busy work while listening. I got tired of the fact that she was willing to put up with all the stuff from EH. I went out and bought A Moveable Feast after finishing TPW because I want to get EH’s take on that time. Haven’t read it yet but hope to soon.

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        • At 2011.08.12 10:21, Kailana said:

          I am curious about this book, but I am not sure if it will work for me. It’s a hard decision.

          • At 2011.08.12 10:26, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

            I definitely liked this better than you did, but you are totally correct that it could have used more passion.

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            • At 2011.08.23 17:56, bookmagic said:

              I just never warmed up to Hadley. i don’t understand the rave reviews this book got. I don’t feel like it shed any light on anything. It mostly bored me.

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              • At 2011.08.23 19:02, Jennifer said:

                You and me both. I am thankful for the introduction to a new narrator, though.

                • At 2012.02.08 01:00, #397 ~ Holy Ghost Girl said:

                  […] Terrell’s sections, I was glued to the story. She brought his charisma through the speakers. The Paris Wife was my first experience with MacDuffie as narrator. While I thought she did a good job with the […]

                  • At 2012.05.07 15:20, Donielle said:

                    I just finished reading this for my book club over the weekend and I loved it. I couldn’t put it down, and cried at the end. Maybe it is my pregnancy hormones, but I kept wishing that the ending didn’t have to be the way it did. Now, if there were a book about Pauline and Ernest’s marriage, I’d read that too!

                    • At 2012.05.07 15:37, Literate Housewife said:

                      I’m beginning to wonder if I chose the wrong format for this book. I’m glad you loved it, though! Speaking of Ernest and Pauline’s marriage, there is a book coming out this fall called HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (http://www.erikarobuck.com/Hemingway-s-Girl.html). I’m going to meet the author at BEA in June. If I can get my hands on a copy, I’ll be sure to send it your way. What are sisters for? 🙂

                    • At 2012.12.11 00:09, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain said:

                      […] Literate Housewife 0 comments […]

                      (Required, will not be published)

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