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
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?