Hemingway from the first wife’s point of view: The Paris Wife


This was a short but enjoyable read: a well written story about how a simple American girl (Hadley Richardson) met and married a tortured aspiring author and went to live with him in Paris. It recounts some key elements in the life of Hemingway and it made me both love and hate him. It plays up some endearing sides of his personality but also shows his selfish nature and how his insecurity and lack of impulse control led to the failure of the marriage.

Hadley’s voice tells us of one of the driving forces in Hemingway’s life:

He often said he’s died in the war, just for a moment; that his soul had left his body life a silk handkerchief, slipping out and levitating over his chest. It had returned without being called back, and I often wondered if writing for him was a way of knowing his soul was there after all, back in its place.

I don’t know if this new insight into Hemingway’s life will give me the wherewithal to actually get through For Whom the Bell Tolls. I started it a while back but I have trouble maintaining my interest in spite of the inherent interest of the subject matter, which is the Spanish Civil War. While Hemingway does create very vivid characters, the way he uses “thou” and “thee” to translate the formalities of polite Spanish gets on my nerves and really slows down reading through the dialogue.

One key point that perked my interest in The Paris Wife was the F. Scott Fitzgerald connection. Anybody who knows me has heard that I had a huge fixation of Fitzgerald’s writing and life between 2006 and 2008. It started through a book I had randomly bought in Madrid in the summer of 2006. It was the story of two men investigating the possibility that Fitzgerald had not died in 1942 as everyone believed and had kept writing for many years under an assumed name.

Following that, I read The Great Gatsby, Tender Is The Night, The Beautiful and Damned, as well as the 1962 biography by Andrew Turnbull, and some other biographical works I encountered on the shelfs of the local library.

I got a French novel called Alabama Song by Gilles Leroy for Christmas 2007. It tells the story of Zelda, Fitzgerald’s wife (Ha ha, another wife story!). The portrait drawn by Leroy is not very flattering (neither is Zelda’s portrayal in The Paris Wife) but it shows a fascinating interpretation of what her life was about, especially when it comes to her mental problems.

I still have to read Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, which I do have on my Kobo. I don’t know when I will get to that given I still have a huge pile of Swedish novels to get through.


McLain, Paula, The Paris Wife, Doubleday Canada, 2011.

Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls,

Azaùstre, Joaquín Pérez, El gran Felton, Editorial Seix Barral, 2006.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, Scribner, 1925.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, Tender is the Night, Scribner, 1933.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Beautiful and Damned, Scribner, 1922.

Turnbull, Andrew, Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, 1962.

Grenier, Roger, Trois heures du matin: Scott Fitzgerald, Éditions Gallimard, 1995.

Leroy, Gilles, Alabama Song, Mercure de France, 2007.


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