The Paris Wife

January 17 This is VERY unusual for me—starting a post about a book after only reading the first chapter, which was one page. I just don’t want to lose this feeling. I idly began reading chapter one of The Paris Wife last night while brushing my teeth (don’t judge, I know you’ve done it too). It was an indescribable feeling. The very first sentence captured me and catapulted me into the world of the book. The wording was lush and beautiful, almost like a melody. I’ve never been so entranced by a first page before. Intrigued, yes. Gripped, yes. Amused, yes. But never entranced. It was, in a word, beautiful. So beautiful that I had to hold on to the feeling by recording it as the start of this post. Crossing my fingers that it carries through for the rest of the book! Stick with me to find out.

January 22 So here’s the thing. After I finally got past the beauty of page 1 and 2, I of course needed to read further. But that meant that I began reading while on the streetcar and on the train, which led to me feeling dizzy and nauseous very  early in the morning. Which led to me feeling displeased with the book in general, especially since everybody was dancing around with exuberant movement and I could picture it all too well in my mind’s eye and it made me dizzier. So I shut the book. And didn’t open it for the rest of the week, until now.

I only picked it up now because I borrowed it from a friend and have to return it tomorrow. So I resignedly lay down on my bed and resumed reading. And got swept away all over again. Everything is so vibrant. It’s so beautiful. I want to capture every sentence and paint it into my brain and let it seep into me. I found myself making mental notes “Oh, include that quote in your blog…” “Oooh, don’t forget to mention that in the post…”. And then I found myself fearing that I wouldn’t be able to recapture the feelings that were swelling up within me while reading. So I paused and decided to do this post a little differently. Here’s where the Random Reader Challenge gets more random…I’m going to blog as I read. And finish the book tonight.

7:13 Determination to blog about and finish the book tonight while watching the Giants play the 49ers on mute. 49ers scored. Shit. Back to reading.

7:15 Uh oh, Hadley’s displaying signs of alcoholism. I see those warnings!

7:19 “I would gladly have climbed out of my skin and into his that night because I believed that was what love meant.” I think I’m starting to see why I like this book. Love has taken on an all too realistic meaning in 2012. Everyone is so practical. Even when watching the movies, it’s not ” just like the movies” anymore. Despite knowing that this upcoming marriage between Earnest and Hadley doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s the words that appeal to me. These passionate, crazy, 1920’s notions of love that all of us practical, career-minded people now lack. “You see them on the street, those couples who’ve been married so long you can’t tell them apart. How’d that be?” That’d be GREAT. And you know why they did so good? They fell in love in the 1920s.

7:23 “What if marriage didn’t save anything even a little bit? What then?” Damn you, Earnest. Stop asking stupid questions when I’ve just posted about how magical your love is.

7:30 “We held on to each other and looked out at the sea. It was impossibly large and full of beauty and danger in equal parts—and we wanted it all.” What a powerful sentence. When’s the last time you’ve read one like that? I love it! Also, why have the Giants still not scored? HA the second I typed that, TOUCHDOWN GIANTS! On to chapter 12.

7:38 “I want to write one true sentence, he said. If I can write one sentence, simple and true, every day, I’ll be satisfied”. Shoulda been a non-fiction writer, Hem.

8:00 I feel sorry for them both. Sometimes I feel like I’ve almost been in Hadley’s shoes and understand her temper and wish that he would too. Then he goes and cheats. The scary part is, his reasoning almost makes sense.

8:04 “I wonder how that happens. Love, I mean.”

8:13 It’s not the observations of the flighty artists in Paris that I find interesting, but their judgments of normal, steady values that the rest of society has.

8:17 Too much foreshadowing at the ends of chapters.

8:34 I had no idea thet Canada was well ahead of Europe and America in terms of delivering babies!

8:43 The phone just rang and I feel like I’ve been pulled from one planet and thrust into another. It’s a disorienting feeling. I barely spoke ten words, only half aware of the conversation before grabbing the book and reading a couple more pages. Vaguely craving some cereal and milk but that would involve stepping away from the book again. Crud. Desperate Housewives starts at 9. I’ll get cereal then. Read in the commercial breaks. Wonder if anyone else acts as possessed as I do while reading….

8:48 I don’t know if it’s just me or if I haven’t gotten to the “bad” part yet, but I feel like this is a real marriage. Maybe a significantly less stable marriage than what one should be used to, but a marriage of ups and downs held together by love and need. It’s not so bad, is it? I’m not thinking “Poor Hadley” quite yet.

8:59 Ok, NOW I’m starting to think “Poor Hadley”. Just a little. Just in time for Desperate Housewives. I’m not ready for the marriage to fall apart just yet.

10:28 Dreading my life tonight. Cannot possibly read until this Giants game is over…and then HAVE to finish the book before morning.

10:41 GIANTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, resume reading.

10:56 Earnest Hemingway was fit to be a husband. But then he became a writer. And that was all he could ever be. Not human, not husband, just writer. Or maybe too human, absorbed in only the more selfish qualities of life.

11:08 Just hit the chapter that outlined everything that scares me about marriage. Now there’s a fun read.

11:19 Hemingway the coward. And to think I felt sorry for him.

11:22 I’m starting to feel as sick as Hadley. Everything spiralled so fast. One moment it was magical and vibrant and the next its still vibrant alright, but in this sick, twisted, ‘realistic’ sense. Paula McLain really knows how to weave a story.

11:35: It’s over. And I definitely cried. At the end of it, I’m not sure what to say. How can you hate a man whom you feel so very sorry for because at the end of it all he destroyed the best thing he ever had. He became a legend and ruined himself all at once.

The story was real. It was utterly tangible and I’ve never read anything quite like it. It’s beautiful, and I recommend it wholeheartedly with one small exception…Don’t read it the night before you’re about to get married.

And don’t be fooled by love in the 1920s. Maybe my boyfriend doesn’t have to make grand, sweeping statements. Maybe just a feeling is all you really need.

A Paris Wife: 

Recommendation Rate: 

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Post-reading and post-posting comment: I feel like this post hasn’t even begun to capture the emotions I felt while reading the book. I’m just sitting here in a sort of daze, not necessarily because of the storyline but because of how it was told. Words. Words are the most powerful and magical tools we have. I have never seen an author tell a tale so….for lack of a better word….beautifully! Paula McLain’s rendition of Paris, Earnest Hemingway, Hadley Hemingway, and the realities of life has swept me off my feet. And I still haven’t come back down.

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6 thoughts on “The Paris Wife

  1. I apologize for the terribly long-winded sentences and overall bad grammar. I was so completely taken in by the book that this post became stream of consciousness more than a blog post that other people actually have to read and comprehend.

  2. I’m glad you liked this so much! I definitely was swept away by the glamour of the story – and I think the glamour of her writing as well. Everything was so beautiful, even when it wasn’t.

    But, I’ll tell you what, if my husband ever tried to introduce a third person into our marriage, there would be hell to pay. When Pauline sneaks into their room and climbs in bed while they’re napping…that’s just not right. How dare she! And how dare Hem act like that’s acceptable! And Hadley! Shame on her. Shame. Who knew I could still be so scandalized. If Hadley was into it, I’d be okay with it. But…ugh. It was so creepy.

  3. Ok I completely freaked at that portion and that’s when I felt “as sick as Hadley”. At that point I wanted to shake her and say “LEAVE, after slapping them both, IMMEDIATELY”. But then when you think about the day and age… and how everyone was so confused about the proprieties of marriage…

    The only thing that I feel good about is that Hemingway was never as happy with any of the other wives he had. Hadley actually had a happy second marriage. I was even scandalized with just things Earnest said to other women, with and without Hadley around. Very old fashioned that way. But really, if Hadley had been into it….I would’ve probably put down the book. Just not for me at that point lol

    • Ha! It would have been a very different book if Hadley had been ‘into it’!

      I thought it was interesting how liberal the characters views on marriage and relationships were – because in many ways we’re more puritanical in our views on marriage now! At least compared to the characters in this book. It was awesome to see a not very scandalous lesbian relationship! All the openness about marriage and relationships added a touch of glamour to the characters. But…that being said, Hadley wanted a monogamous marriage (and I don’t blame her – that’s what I want too) – so I really felt terrible for the way she was betrayed and taken advantage of. I wish, for Hem’s sake, he could find a really glamourous, up-for-anything woman who could’ve kept up with his life and joined him in a consensual non- monogamous relationship.

  4. I think the openness with marriage and their morals has a lot to do with the ‘artistic temperament’ and feeling that they have a license to behave unconventionally and spread the love, etc…. I think in this day and age the same thing might happen, it’s just more hushed up. Either way, I feel that it was socially unacceptable both then and now. Artists just didn’t care and worked on different planes.

  5. Paula McLain read this post and then emailed me the following (!!!!):

    Hello at long last, Sabrina! I’ve been traveling like a crazy person, but have just read your blog posts and completely love them. Thanks so for taking the whirlwind ride, for being funny and frustrated and heartbroken and irritated and moved. I loved reading everything you wrote. Thank you and every warm wish!

    Paula

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