Hemingway Confidential

12 Apr

A few months ago, my fellow bookclubbers and I read one of Ernest Hemingway’s earliest novels, Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. Set against a typical Lost Generation backdrop of Paris and Madrid, we were shocked at the constant drinking and loose morals of the ex-pat group. They tussled with one another for the book’s supposed heroine, Brett, who we decided, wasn’t that great at all. Now, reading  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, I feel like I’ve been given a fresh angle on the story, from the observant and sober perspective of the Fiesta’s missing character, Mrs Hemingway herself. A fictionalised account of Hadley Hemingway’s relationship with the difficult and brilliant author and giant of American literature, the novel paints a vivid picture of Chicago and Paris of the 1920s. Some of the greats of modern literature make a appearance: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, the Fitzgeralds… While Paris might be the ideal backdrop for any love story, we know from the start that this particular story won’t end happily. The insight we do gain is on the dynamics love and marriage of the period and Hemingway’s burgeoning talent and literary reputation. Most enjoyable for me is the way that it creates a bridge between the events described in The Sun Also Rises, Scott’s Tender is the Night and Zelda’s Save Me The Waltz. We might never get the full picture, but The Paris Wife certainly presents us with a much less rapturous, more intimate and informative picture of Lost Generation life and love. A fascinating and moving read.

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