Avenue in Paris, by Barbara Redmond

Barbara Redmond

By Bethany Olson

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain (2010). The romance between Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley was a passionate, intoxicating whirlwind. Casting aside all fears, the young author and his first wife were married nearly a year after meeting in Chicago and moved to Paris to find inspiration and adventure.

I happen to know a bit about this kind of spontaneity and passion—while I ordinarily have a very strict policy against purchasing books in airports, I threw out the rulebook and bought The Paris Wife by Paula McLain with no regrets despite the inflated price and the fact that my bag was already laden with books. McLain’s fictionalized rendering of Hadley and Ernest’s relationship and their life together in Paris is captivating and heartbreaking. Just as the young Hemingways hurtled through life at breakneck speed, I found myself unable to part from the novel; I finished reading it in the wee hours of Christmas morning, just two days after discovering it.

McLain’s writing is detailed and thoughtful, artfully capturing Hadley’s voice and Ernest’s character. I was drawn to Hadley’s honesty and deeply human thoughts and fears. Despite the cautioning of her peers and my own misgivings, Hadley and I found ourselves falling for Ernest Hemingway, drawn to his exuberance, quick wit, and verve for life. I will be honest: I read some of Hemingway’s work in high school and was not much of a fan, but seeing this author through Hadley’s eyes, I could scarcely believe that the stark, cold writing and this lively, vibrant man were at all related. Beyond endearing Ernest Hemingway to me, Hadley compelled me to discover the Paris they lived in: the parties, the personalities; the passion; and the pressure. Her perspective of this time in Paris added another layer to my growing appreciation for and curiosity about the “Hemingway era.” Sharing the cafes of Paris with writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and meeting in the salon of Gertrude Stein, Ernest began to discover himself as a writer; meanwhile, Hadley tried to keep up with him, trying to hold onto herself, her husband, and her sanity.

If you are looking for love, if you are seeking to remember what it means to be alive, to be challenged, and to grow, I cannot recommend The Paris Wife more enthusiastically. Buy it now. You won’t regret it.

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain (WHSmithDirect – Richard and Judy Book Club)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A190EM_Z3dk]

Paula McLain on Reviving Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife (BookLounge)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR6bfEvYLEo] Bethany Olson croppedBethany Olson received her B.A. in French and Environmental Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Bethany relocated to Mobile, AL after graduation to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, and is currently employed full-time as Programs Assistant. Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, she contributes to the organization’s efforts to advocate for restoration of the Gulf Coast, particularly Coastal Alabama. She is employed by Mobile Baykeeper, a small environmental non-profit organization located in Mobile, Alabama, dedicated to protecting the health, beauty and heritage of the Mobile Bay Watershed and Alabama’s coastal ecosystems and communities. Bethany hopes one day to run her own nonprofit organization. In her free time, Bethany loves to cook and bake, craft, write and garden.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Still, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Bon appétit, Julia! Bethany Olson inspires us with her review of Julie Powell’s book, Julie & Julia, and the film adaptation of the same title. Included are three simple recipes from the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II, by Julia Child and Simone Beck.

French Impressions: Alice Kaplan – the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. Author and professor of French at Yale University, Ms. Kaplan discusses her new book, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the process of transformation. By entering into the lives of three important American women who studied in France, we learn how their year in France changed them and how they changed the world because of it. (French)

French Impressions: Catherine Watson on literary travel writing and memoir. Award-winning author, travel writer and photographer, Catherine Watson has developed a career that has taken her around the world three times, to all seven continents and into 115 countries. Catherine shares her life, on and off assignment, as a solo traveler.

Fiction: The Last Passage, by award-winning Moroccan writer Hachim Sbaa whose fictional writing looks at the life of an elderly woman as she is lives life by herself and tries to figure out what truly matters and how she can fill her time and what is left of her life.

Text copyright ©2013 Bethany Olson. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.