Book Review #1: “The Paris Wife”

I love reading. It’s an escape for me. However, I’ve been so busy (and tired) recently that it’s been hard to keep a regular reading schedule.

One of the 14 goals I set for 2014 was to read 5 new books. I promised myself that after reading each book, I’d write a short book review for the blog.

In one weekend, I managed to finally finish the subject of this post, plus knock out 7/8 of my second book. That post will come later this week, I hope.

To the review!

I first heard about The Paris Wife at one of my PEO sisterhood meetings. For each meeting, there is some sort of program. One of our sisters, Kay, had read the book and decided to give a book review as a program. It was a fascinating review and I knew I wanted to read it. The cover is below.


I never buy anything full-price anymore, so I decided to wait it out. The libraries I frequented either didn’t have a copy or they were always checked out with a waiting list.

Then last summer, through the magic of Facebook, a girl in Portsmouth was advertising some books for sale and I saw a copy in her pictures. She only wanted $10 for it, so I jumped on it. Nice hardcover copy, practically brand-new. Sold.

With setting my 14 goals, I started reading it around the beginning of January – A chapter here, three chapters there, and so on. I was only about 1/4 of the way through it as March ended. I was frustrated because it was a really good book so far, but life was getting in the way. I normally do a lot of my reading at night before I go to bed, but cable TV is so distracting!

Fortunately, the first weekend in April, Al and I had the opportunity to drive his dad’s Mustang convertible out to his parents’ newly-acquired property, about 3 hours due west of Chesapeake. I brought the book with me, on the off chance that I’d be able to sit in solitude and read.

I read about two chapters that Saturday. Finally, Sunday morning, Al’s parents drove us back to Chesapeake. It finally got quiet about an hour into the trip, so I took it out and went to town. I declared the book finished just before we got home, and it felt great!

The story is a novelization of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage. Her name is Hadley. Her character undergoes so many changes as she meet Ernest and embarks on a worldwide journey with him. It also gives a great image of Ernest himself, into his writing. They go from the U.S., to Paris, to Spain, to Toronto, and back to Paris in just a few years.

I’m a visual reader – That means, for me, a good book is when I can put it down and literally see the scenes in front of me, before reality sets back in. The author, Paula McLain, is so vividly visual with her writing. For example – There are several chapters set in Switzerland with the Alps as a stunning backdrop. While reading those, I felt like I had been transported across the Atlantic to their chalet. I could almost feel the sweater Hadley was wearing and the warmth of the fire, and hear the wind whip the snow across the mountainous landscape.

The other thing that made this book awesome was it was set primarily in Paris, along with several chapters occurring in Barcelona and Madrid. I’ve been to all three of those cities – So reading those passages took me back to 2005 and 2008. All those memories washed over me as I read.

I also love 20th century history, so it was really neat to see a novelization of these American expatriates who lived and wrote in Paris during the early 1900s. To name a few – Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce.

McLain’s novel makes me want to read more of her work. She did an immaculate job of capturing history in the context of a novel. I only hope that if I ever write publish a historical novel one day that I researched as much as she did.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

5 thoughts on “Book Review #1: “The Paris Wife”

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