The Paris Wife Book Review

The Paris Wife: Book Review by Arlene

5 out of 5 stars



Imagine, if you can, it is the 1920’s and you are a young impressionable woman. You are at a crossroads in your life and you meet Ernest Hemingway at a party in Chicago before he became famous.

You both fall deeply and passionately in love and there is no looking back.

This was Hadley Richardson a quiet twenty-eight year old who has all but given up on love and happiness – This is a quote from the back of the book.

Hadley thought this would never happen for her. Hadley was 28 and Ernest was only 20. They had a whirlwind courtship and wedding then, at the advice of friends, went to Paris where Ernest could meet the right people who would help and guide him along his path and dream of becoming a writer. It was the exciting Jazz Age of Paris, hard drinking, fast living and free loving. They fell in with a lively and volatile group which included Gertrude Stein and F.Scott Fitzgerald.

It has been mentioned that The Paris Wife was nothing more than an interpretation by Paula McLain of Hemingway’s The Moveable Feast. I did not find this to be the case for me.

In my opinion The Paris Wife was meant to be Hadley’s story based on her experiences being married to Ernest Hemingway during that period in time. I feel that Paula McClain impressively told that story.

While reading the novel the reader gets to know Hadley, feel her strengths and weaknesses and most importantly of all why she stayed in her marriage to Ernest Hemingway.

The Paris Wife page 102

This novel tells the passionate love story, their early marriage and then their early life in Paris, the birth of their son and Hadley’s struggle to find herself and her worth and exactly where she belonged while Ernest pursued his dream of becoming an acclaimed writer.

The novel takes the reader through Hadley’s eyes until the ultimate betrayal and the end of their marriage.

I felt I learned things I never knew about this couple and am so glad Paula McClain chose to write Hadley’s story. I felt it was meant to be written from Hadley’s point of view.

I felt McClain did an outstanding job in capturing the time period and the lives of the young and famously wealthy people of that era. There were so many extremely well written moments in the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley during the years they were together.

Of course, everyone knows Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises. The Paris Wife takes you into depth of his struggle to write it and get it published.

He suffered from bouts of depression and would go off on his own to work and be alone and deal with his own struggles of the time. I found this to be an interesting and informative part of his life.

This novel takes you through the journey of a loving couple, a baby they both adored, love and deception and eventually the heartfelt break-up of their life together.

The Paris Wife A Novel

Hadley was his first wife. He lived to have 3 more. Hadley moves on in her life and finds love again. Others have said this book was just another telling of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, as I previously mentioned, but I feel The Paris Wife stands alone in the telling of the love story and redemption of Ernest and Hadley.

As has been written this book is a heartfelt portrayal of love and torn loyalty. The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway writes that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

The Paris Wife Book Cover

This novel inspired me to pick up a new copy of The Sun Also Rises and read it again and what it took out of his life with Hadley. The character of Pauline, who became his second wife, played a pivotal role in the dissolution of his marriage to Hadley – but, in the end it would always be Hadley.

I loved the way McClain portrays her, I felt when I read the last page that I knew her and I liked her immensely. The Paris Wife now sits on my bookshelf with my other favorites.

Historical fiction at its best!!

Buy The Paris Wife on Amazon, or listen to it for free with an audible trial.


Check out the book club discussion questions for The Paris Wife!



16 thoughts on “The Paris Wife Book Review

  1. I am so glad you were able to enjoy this book so much. It seems like most of all, you really got to dive into knowing who Hadley was, and her motivations for doing the things she decided to do within her marriage to Hemingway. It sounds so well written as well!

    1. Hi Olivia It is great to hear from you. This novel was very well written and for me a page turner. I felt it gave a great insight into Hadley’s and Ernest’s relationship and the lifestyles of the writers and artists of that period in history. The Jazz Age in Paris during the 1920’s was an exciting time well portrayed by Paula McClain. I am looking forward to reading Circling The Sun as mentioned in my review. I also loved the cover art on both novels! Nice to hear from you Olivia!

    1. Hi Testy…Nice to hear from you. If you love romance genre I feel you would love this book. It is full of love and romance and all that emotion that goes with it. I think Paula McClain describes the feelings of all involved on every level. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I enjoyed this book some time ago.
    I always felt that Ernest’s and Hadley’s marriage would come to an end and Pauline was the catalyst. It wasn’t Pauline’s fault.

    1. Hello Becky I have to agree with you on feeling that Hadley’s and Ernest’s marriage would eventually come to an end – after all who could really live in that kind of situation that they had with Pauline….It was and interesting study in human nature to see how far Hadley would go to keep her marriage alive. In the end we do see that you can’t help who you fall in love with!!

  3. Hi, Arlene! What a great review! Although I like Hemingway I was never aware of his personal story! I think that The Paris Wife is one of the books that I have to read in order to find out all the things you’ve mentioned about him and Hadley!
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Rebecca Thanks for your comments on my review. I found The Paris Wife to be very well written and I feel Paula McClain nailed it as her narrative told this story in a way that keeps the reader wanting more. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for stopping by great to hear from you!

  4. Hi Arlene,
    Thanks for this wonderful review. Your description really makes me want to read this book and learn more about Hadley.

    What’s more interesting to me is the age difference between Hadley and Ernest. I’m in a long distance relationship with a girl who is 10 years older than me. So this definitely intrigues me about their relationship.

    Awesome review:)

    1. Hello Jeremy
      I appreciate your comments on my review. I felt the age difference between Hadley and Ernest played a significant role in their relationship and marriage. This being said, they managed to sustain their relationship throughout their lives even though they divorced and moved on. They lived and loved and learned as their lives continued. Good luck to you and yours Jeremy!

  5. Hello Arlene, a very well written review. I felt your enjoyment and immersion into it. I could have read more as it brought back memories of the past when I use to read fictions galore in my early 20’s and beyond.

    This was very well done. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Hi EJ Thanks for reading my review. We appreciate hearing from our readers and getting their viewpoints. We look forward to hearing from you again in 2017 and hope we can inspire you to read some of our selections!

  6. i love books, and this seems to be a very interesting story, beautiful. i really enjoy reading about love&life stories. You made me curious, so i’ll try to find a copy of this book. Thank you for your review!

    1. Hello Roxen So nice to hear from you. Thanks for reading my review. Our book club hopes to inspire our readers to pick up a good book from time to time. Books take you places you ordinarily would not have an opportunity to experience. Thanks again!

  7. Wow Arlene, beautifully written review (not sure the book can live up to it 😀 ). You definitely paint a vivid picture and I’d like to read more…

    Great review,

    1. Hi Jay Thanks for your thoughts on my review. I really enjoyed reading this book and will read others by Paula McClain. I have just picked up Circling The Sun by her and it also looks like a captivating story. I would like to hear from you if you do decide to read The Paris Wife. After all it was Paris in the 1920’s and how exciting it must have been!!

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