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Could have been exciting...
on April 7, 2011
The Paris Wife is a well-researched fictional account of Ernest Hemingway's early years from the point of view of Hadley Richardson, his first wife (of four).
Before I delve into the review, a bit about me - I prefer reading non-fiction over fiction. Upon reflection, I think it is because prose can make or break a book for me and in my experience, more often than not, it breaks. Novels can be particularly prone to hollow voices, unconvincing dialogue and painful efforts to move a story along.
I think I could really have enjoyed The Paris Wife, but for the prose. It contained so much material that could be exciting subject matter for a novel: Paris in the 1920s, eccentric artists, bohemian values, travel, great love affairs, cameos by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and, of course, the giant personality that was Ernest Hemingway himself! I was so looking forward to reading about all of the above.
McLain is a good writer, so I managed to get through the novel, but despite the great many interesting events in Richardson and Hemingway's life, the characters and their circumstances never managed to come alive for me. Hadley's narrative, and even Ernest's voice, came across flat and boring. But, I do think many people will love this book - the reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive. Maybe it is because I am not a big fiction reader that it didn't do much for me.