by Paula McLean
Bookclub pick – purchased
It was so easy to fall into this book, like how Ernest Hemingway and Hadley fell in love. What a time, jazz, Paris, pre, and post war…short chapters convincing you to read just a little bit more. Loved it. I don’t know why, but it took me almost three weeks to finish it though…I kept picking up other things. But once I committed to finishing, it was so good and wonderful to roll around in their world for a while. This is a historical fiction book though I read somewhere that McLain did a ton of research and stayed as true to their story as possible. I am sure she had to make up dialogue and reasoning behind the events that happened and invented Hadley’s thoughts, because this is a first person narrative from her point of view.
“Not everyone believed in marriage then. To marry was to say you believed in the future and in the past, too – that history and tradition and hope could stay knit together to hold you up. But the war had come and stolen all the fine young men and our faith too. There was only today to throw yourself into without thinking about tomorrow, let alone forever. To keep you from thinking, there was liquor, an ocean’s worth at least, all the usual vices and plenty of rope to hang yourself with.” pg xi
Hadley and Hemingway marry, she in her mid twenties, he only 21. They move to Paris, he writes, she keeps house and they meet and hang out with all the other ex-pats in Paris. Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, the Fitzgeralds etc. It sounds amazing, chaotic, wonderful and horrible.
We get a few glimpses of the famous folks of that time and I really want to read about Fitzgerald and Zelda now, they seemed like an absolutely intriguing couple. Was Zelda crazy? She is shown that way in the little glimpses we catch here. I also really want to give everyone I know a nickname. I need one too.
The ending was sad, I cried a couple of tears, because even though their relationship took a while to wind down, things seemed pretty lax back then, everyone had a mistress and a wife and “friends” it seemed. Especially those artistic types. But once it ended, it was bittersweet. Hadley needed to do what she had to do to be happy, and Hem couldn’t change what he had done or the direction he was moving. This book makes me want to read some Hemingway, to watch Midnight in Paris and check out other writers of that time. It was lovely. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend it. If giving stars, I guess I would go in the 4 or 4.5 range.