Friday, April 15, 2011

The Paris Wife

Yikes!  Two weeks since my last post!  Not sure what happened there other than possibly the excitement of hockey season being over and revelling in the temporary window of extra time.

I have been thinking a lot about Paris lately.  This is largely due to the fact that I recently read The Paris Wife.  Also, it's been almost two years since my last time in Paris.  Anyone and everyone who knows me, knows that Paris is my very favourite city in the world.  In fact, I would love to be a wife in Paris.

The minute I land, I am full of joy (except for the time when I am in Charles de Gaulle airport but then as soon as I am out, I am back to being full of joy).  It was during that trip two years ago that I threw myself the best party I have ever had in my life (well, maybe except for my wedding), to celebrate turning 40.  It is also during that trip that I received a surprise birthday present in the form of conceiving my third child.

The Paris Wife also had me reminiscing about high school.  Believe me, the last thing I do when I think of high school is put on a pair of rose coloured glasses.  However, I do remember a particular teacher with great fondness because he saw something in me no one else could see yet:  my capacity for reading and appreciating the literary greats.  It was then, in grade 10, at 15 years old, that I became a classic novel junkie (leading me to my English degree).  The first book of any literary significance I ever read, on my own, without being assigned, was Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.   So Paula McLain's fictional memoir The Paris Wife appealed to a couple of my major soft spots.

The Paris Wife is a fictional memoir told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley.  McLain has imagined Hadley's voice and carries the reader to post-war Paris.  The Paris of the Lost Generation; a time so rich in literature abounding with the talent of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound among others.  The novel chronicles Hadley's first encounter of a brash and confident young Hemingway, her falling in love with him, moving to Paris and ultimately committing to support him as he writes what would eventually become his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

McLain's dialogue amongst the characters is stunning: rapid, clever, malicious, entreating, sorrowful, joyful, delivered with amazing pace and tempo. While spending a lot of time on Hemingway's writing, drinking, ego, and mental health, The Paris Wife is also a book about a woman trying to figure out who she is in her husband's crazy world, and dealing with her own demons.  It's a poignant struggle for Hadley but to be honest, she got on my nerves a bit as the story went on.

It takes some guts to assume the voice of someone who once existed and put your own imagination to it.  I think McLain did a really splendid job and The Paris Wife is now making the "lending" rounds of my friends and family.   I wonder if I can convince our book club to try some Hemingway.  I have a "craving" for The Sun Also Rises.