Tuesday 27 January 2015

Three on a Theme: Hemingway's Wives


Originally I was going to write this post just about The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which was  our January pick for my online book group which I must say is full of lovely, eclectic readers who always suggest things I'd never heard of but which sound fantastic. Then I decided I wanted to post (as I said I wanted to do a while back and then never did) three books around the same theme, namely Ernest Hemingway and particularly his first marriage. 

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

It makes sense to talk about the one that I've actually read first. Honestly, I had very similar feelings to Hanna on this one, except that I know far less than she does about Hemingway and so hated him a lot less. I liked the feeling of fluidity throughout the book - it helped me come to terms with what happens towards the end, but I was incredibly annoyed with Hadley at various points throughout the book. She was such a pushover! I got quite angry in my notes at one point, there's a whole paragraph in capitals, underlined multiple times. I don't want to put in anything that will spoil this gorgeous, immersive book for anyone but there was a bit towards the end where she just should have stopped putting up with all the crap she was putting up with, grown a spine, given him a slap (at the very least) and walked out, but she didn't. Such disappointment. That said, McLain can't rewrite history, and with the story she had she did an amazing job 

The only downside of it (if it can be called that) is because it's the story of the Hemingway's time in Paris rubbing shoulders with people like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford and the Fitzgerald's, it totally reignited my desire to read tons of Jazz Age books, as if my wishlist needs to be any longer!

 Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

It's actually a total coincidence that I have these three books on hand. Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood has been on my wishlist for a while and I happened to have a leftover (??!) book token I'd forgotten about to spend, so after The Paris Wife was picked and while I was waiting for it to come in at the library, I was browsing Waterstone's during an unexpectedly childfree half hour and Mrs Hemingway was staring out at me with it's arresting bright blue cover from one of their strategically placed little tables. I carried it around the shop with me for a bit, and then Rhys and the boys came back so I just decided to buy it. I'm glad I did now as it's about all four of his wives and so should compliment The Paris Wife quite nicely. It will be interesting to see another take on his story.  

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 

How better to finish off my little Hemingway binge than with the memoir of the man himself, featuring his Paris years with Hadley, covered in The Paris Wife? Previously my only Hemingway experience has been A Farewell to Arms which I had to read in Uni and thought it was ok. This is a teeny tiny little volume which was published posthumously from his manuscripts and notes. I picked it up in a charity shop for peanuts ages ago and I've left it out while we're packing to move just in case I feel like picking it up. 

Have you read any of these books? Any other great Hemingway recommendations I should check out? 


  1. I'm reading Mrs Hemmingway for my book club. I'm not into it, it's ok, just a bit blah...I feel like I should like it more, but you know...

  2. I totally agree with you about Hadley. Really wished she would have grown a spine and said enough is enough. Le sigh. I definitely want to read A Moveable Feast and see what he had to say about Hadley. :)

  3. I got quite angry in my notes at one point, there's a whole paragraph in capitals, underlined multiple times.

    Haha, my notebook looks like that sometimes. My Tess of the Drearyvilles entry is pretty much just snarling in big black angry letters. It's fun to look back at though.

    I'd like to know how much Hadley ACTUALLY put up with though. Like, we'll never know if they had heated arguments where she threatened to leave him, or if That Incident actually happened. That's the problem with books like these - they're so well written that you can't separate fact from fiction!

  4. I highly recommend reading A Moveable Feast a little at a time. It makes for marvelous little stories and is so revealing. I had read it a few months before my book club read The Paris Wife and they really do blend so well together!