Thursday, April 11, 2013

Books: The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is the Literary Junkies Book Club selection for April.  I actually planned ahead and read it during vacation.  It is the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley.

Based only on this book, without thinking too much about the fact/fiction part of it all, I thought it was just okay.   I gave it 2 stars out of 5.  I was interested in it, and Hadley and Ernest had a strange relationship with each other and various other characters in Paris (some well-known artists/writers of the time).  The ending was sad, but then, it had to be, because we all know Hadley is his "first wife" and we all know how Hemingway's life ended. 

I didn't know very much about Hemingway's early life, so as I read the book, I was curious about how much was "historical" and how much was "fiction."

I really enjoy historical fiction that is based around real events, but the main characters are just made up by the author, like Fall of Giants, which is set during WWI and has some peripheral characters that are real historical figured, but the specific lives that he focuses on are fictional.  I also don't mind stories about real people if they are sort of mysterious people, where we only know a small piece of their life, and then the author imagines the rest of the puzzle, like in The White Queen.   

The Paris Wife just seemed weird to me, because the main characters are real people, who lived less than 100 years ago, and we have pretty detailed information about what happened to them.  I don't really get how an author can just take a true story about real people and re-word it, maybe add in some assumed feelings, and get credit for writing a novel.    

I decided it would be interesting to read Hemingway's "memoir" (even though he says to consider it fiction) about that same time period, to see how much matched up, so I got A Moveable Feast from the library.  I really wish I had read it first.  Many of the stories are the same, which is expected, but takes me back to my original question of how McLain gets credit for writing a "novel" when she didn't really come up with anything.  A Moveable Feast was more interesting to me, and I mostly learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald is CRAZY!   

Hemingway was also pretty crazy, so I don't know how much to believe about what really happened.  I have read a fair amount of his work, and I generally enjoy the story, until then ending when I am sobbing. 

Have you read either of these books?  Are you a fan of Hemingway?  

1 comment:

  1. Reading Paris wife at the moment and finding it surprisingly good, it is ambitious of McClain to take an author like Hemingway and make them the subject of their own novel but so far so good. I actually only picked up Paris wife after reading A Moveable Feast and The Sun also Rises both of which I loved. In a way fiction can offer some insight into the time and relationships that non-fiction can sometimes struggle to do.

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