Ocean Blue skirt. Bongo top. Old Navy shoes.
I am a lover of classic books. I have been since the first one I read. So you can imagine my enjoyment at the discovery of a book on one of my favorite classic authors, Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain is historical fiction, written in the voice of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s wife. Before I read this book, I knew nothing of Ernest’s life besides an involvement with war, so reading it to me was a surprise on every page- and I loved it that way. I absolutely adore this book and I now consider it one of my top five favorites. From the first encounter of the two lovers, I was hooked. Ernest and Hadley had a chemistry almost uncommon today. Hadley’s perspective is so well exemplified that it is easy to become her in the story, to lose yourself in the dazzle of their love. From the beginning, they were troubled. Ernest’s relationship with his family was tense and both Hadley and Ernest had lost their fathers to suicide. Hadley was perhaps the one with the least feeling of promise, but when she became involved with Ernest that changed. He struggled as a writer throughout their entire relationship, and Hadley surrendered herself to the success of his dream. Her affection for piano never really blossomed into any success, and Hadley found herself jealous of various objects of adoration to Ernest. Ernest was privileged to be mentored by some of the most notable writers of all time, including Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, but even those relationships grew increasingly strained over time. Through all of this, Ernest and Hadley traveled wherever work took Ernest or wherever they desired. The imagery used to paint Paris is so vivid and lively one feels global just reading of their accounts. Travel is truly echoed as something of importance through Hadley’s words. Throughout their adventures, I grew eager to settle myself in various spots across the globe. As simple as it sounds, the world is a place to find yourself, and an even better place to revel in love. The reader comes to respect and trust Hadley’s opinions, as it is her voice that provides us with such a remarkable journey. One of the most noteworthy places they resided was Spain, where Ernest became somewhat obsessed with the Running of the Bulls. Others reviled at the violence of such a “sport”, but Ernest loved the bravado of the fighters and the intrigue of the edge of life and death. As we discover Ernest’s interests we grow to really know him. A headstrong man with passion for multiple endeavors in life, we really root for his and Hadley’s relationship, even as tumult continues. The arrival of a child, affectionately named Bumby, further surrenders Hadley of her singularity. But she remains a strong force of a woman. She voices her opinions and concerns often to Ernest, and though blood boils, their love remains ignited for what seems an infinity. Hadley finally sees meaning in her life when she is with Ernest. The couple basically becomes each other and it is joked by Hadley, “eventually every wife gets her husband’s feet.” All of their friends adore them together and see them as the epitome of what love should be. This book is an emotional journey for the reader, and even as things start to really fall apart, it seems worth it. I won’t spoil what comes to be of the couple, but I can assure you it is well worth the journey. I came out of the novel with an understanding of both Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson, and a new look on love. My absolute favorite quote from the book is “No one you love is ever truly lost.” This speaks volumes for what life means in the end. Through tragedy and bliss, seduction and falling outs, love provides a higher meaning than what singular life could ever mean. We involve ourselves in others’ lives for happiness, and though tangled these relationships may be, they save us for a time. Though something great may only be temporary, it is beautiful for that time and provides meaning well beyond its years. One human can tolerate a lot, love many, accomplish much, but still suffer greatly. Some suffer beyond words and cope in ways we do not approve, but love remains our greatest possible offering. For all those years, throughout that journey, her life with Ernest, Hadley was the Paris wife. And that was exactly who she wanted to be.