Join Paula McLain to talk about our February Book of the Month, THE PARIS WIFE, Tuesday 28th February 9-10pm

(142 Posts)

Anyone happen to see Midnight In Paris, Woody Allen's most recent (and hurrah, at last! enjoyable) film? Essentially Owen Wilson looking confused and cute and exploring his 'golden era', the historical moment that you would most like to live in. Which means drinking all night in Twenties Paris with Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Dali, Duff Cooper, Scott Fitzgerald. But he discovers that not all those gilded free spirits are so keen to be there.

February's book also takes that golden era and flips it over. THE PARIS WIFE is the story of Hadley, aka Mrs Ernest Hemingway (the first one, the 'Paris one'), who first meets the handsome, energetic, vulnerable Nesto in Prohibition-era Chicago. Several parties, fights and a proposal later, and they find themselves penniless in the city of lights, amidst the glittering crowd of artists and writers that congregate in its cafes and bars. Ernest's career finally begins to take off, and Hadley, kept at home with their baby son, begins to be pushed further and further into the sidelines. As she watches the fault lines in her marriage crack ever wider, her desperation to hold onto her love only grows stronger...until she realises there is another ready to take her place.

Read more about the book at our book of the month page, or browse pictures of Hadley and Ernest on Paula's website

Virago are offering 50 copies of The Paris Wife to Mumsnetters. To bag your copy before they run out, please go to the book of the month page and fill in your details.

We'll post on this thread once the copies have all been sent out but if you're not lucky enough to bag a free copy, don't forget you can get your paperback or Kindle version here

We are delighted that Paula will be joining us at the end of February for the live webchat - we will confirm the exact date in the next few days. Look forward to seeing you all there, and do keep posting your thoughts and any advance questions on this thread...

aristocat Wed 01-Feb-12 13:19:16

me please smile

LaVitaBellissima Wed 01-Feb-12 13:42:00

Me too please grin

DuchessofMalfi Wed 01-Feb-12 13:44:32

Me too please. Fingers crossedsmile.

suzannened Wed 01-Feb-12 13:58:57

Here's hoping - I need a good book

Abcinthia Wed 01-Feb-12 14:34:47

I've got my fingers crossed. It's been on my wishlist for a while.

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Wed 01-Feb-12 14:44:41

oooh fingers crossed, always prefer to read the book before seeing the movie

Hullygully Wed 01-Feb-12 15:08:33

<Lights a Gitane, stares moodily into the distance over a glass of Absinthe. Considers shooting a tiger>

juneybean Wed 01-Feb-12 17:07:18

Have requested one! grin

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 01-Feb-12 17:26:16

Thank you everyone who requested a copy of The Paris Wife. We have reached the magic number (50) so the form has now closed. We'll email to let you know if you were successful.

champagnesupernova Thu 02-Feb-12 00:10:13

sigh
too late
<clicks all too easy to do spend money with kindle button>

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 02-Feb-12 09:50:14

Paula will be joining us on Tuesday 28th February 9 - 10pm so put the date in your diary. We've spoken to Virago this morning and the books will be sent out very shortly. Do let us know when they arrive. Enjoy!

Twofairiesandapixie Thu 02-Feb-12 21:53:49

Fingers crossedwinkwink

WindmillShop Thu 02-Feb-12 22:36:26

I too have just clicked the too very easy 'buy now' but am v excited as this is the first book club discussion that I won't be at work for (work night shifts) so can join in with my thick and dumb questions! Just need some quiet shifts now to read the book once it arrives!

Nevergarglebrandybutter Sun 05-Feb-12 15:36:50

I went into my local bookshop today to ask for this book <polishes halo> to be informed the paperback version wouldn't be available until March. I said I had seen it online on paperback and she said this was quite likely.
Sorry to be a pain, but in the interest of independent bookshops is there anyway the books of the month could be timed to allow us bookshop fans to join in with the discussion.
Anyway, the lady in the shop then offered to order one in so I have no idea if i'm getting hardback or paperback so my confusion may be creating a problem where there isn't one.

DuchessofMalfi Mon 06-Feb-12 12:32:21

I think perhaps the lady in your bookshop was wrong. I've seen The Paris Wife in paperback for sale for weeks now. They have copies in our local Waitrose priced around £5.99.

Nevergarglebrandybutter Mon 06-Feb-12 20:15:19

Hmm, you might be right. I have a suspicion she has ordered one, and i'll find out tomorrow. Why she originally said it wasn't available I don't know?

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Tue 07-Feb-12 11:22:06

I'm guessing I was unlucky this time, off to waterstones at lunch then

Nevergarglebrandybutter Wed 08-Feb-12 11:05:50

it's a paperback!? lady in bookshop was talking nonsense. sorry bout that.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 08-Feb-12 13:12:07

Has anyone received their copy yet? I'm assuming I was unlucky too but don't want to go and buy one yet just in case???

whereismywine Thu 09-Feb-12 07:47:12

Mm. Should I buy this. Still hoping one might arrive in the post smile

Definitely available in paperback - we're making a real effort to schedule the authors to coincide with affordable PBs so that there's every chance of getting hold of a copy.

Will check and see if books been sent out and keep you posted...

Abcinthia Thu 09-Feb-12 09:36:18

My copy has just arrived smile

beachhutbetty Thu 09-Feb-12 10:31:19

My copy just arrived too - I love a new book to take on holiday with me smile

coni336 Thu 09-Feb-12 11:20:24

Mine just arrived too, Thank youuuu!

ScratchingMyCratchit Thu 09-Feb-12 12:09:52

Mines just arrived, thankfully didn't make it to waterstones earlier this week

Thank you so much

DuchessofMalfi Thu 09-Feb-12 12:51:20

My copy has just arrived too, thank you smile. Looking forward to reading it.

suzannened Thu 09-Feb-12 12:57:01

Arrived with perfect timing as finished my book yesterday

whereismywine Thu 09-Feb-12 13:17:02

Yay it just come all shiny and new book smelling smile

kittysaysmiaow Thu 09-Feb-12 19:04:41

Mine arrived today to much excitement. Thank you! grin

LaVitaBellissima Thu 09-Feb-12 20:10:14

Mine too smile

Early night for me I think!

aristocat Thu 09-Feb-12 23:05:09

grin me too

elizabecca Sat 11-Feb-12 22:12:54

Just about to start this book - have been looking forward to this new book more than others before as its my first book club experience, and I'm not on night shifts when the author is on here - its even on my calendar. <biggest smile emoticon going>

yUMMYmUMMYb Mon 13-Feb-12 09:25:55

got mine too, thanks. Not a book i would ever pick from the shelf so fingers crossed it's good.

DuchessofMalfi Mon 13-Feb-12 13:35:42

I'm nearly half way, and really enjoying it.

Abcinthia Mon 13-Feb-12 16:43:11

I finished it this afternoon. I really enjoyed reading it.

Have read it and excited to hear it is book of the month.cant wait to hear from author

Teaddict Wed 15-Feb-12 21:07:39

I'm over halfway through this and enjoying the story but have a real sense of "come on, when is something going to happen?" - anyone else? Also I can't decide if Hadley is fantastically commited for supporting Ernest the way she does or cowardly for not standing up for herself more.

DuchessofMalfi Thu 16-Feb-12 09:21:35

I finished reading it yesterday evening. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to the discussion of it with Paula McLain.

coppertop Sat 18-Feb-12 14:56:03

This wasn't the kind of book I would normally buy, and usually anything with "deeply romantic" on the back cover would have me running for the hills. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. I'm also secretly in awe of how much work must have gone into researching it all.

amazonianwoman Mon 20-Feb-12 13:13:32

Just finished it and feeling utterly drained! I really enjoyed it...

Am embarrassed to say that I've never read more than a couple of Hemingway's short stories but have just downloaded The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast to read next.

Teaddict Tue 21-Feb-12 08:26:54

I finished this last night, fantastic book, makes me want to read some Hemingway too Amazonianwoman. I also want to find out what happened to Ernest in the rest of his life, he was a busy guy! wink

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Wed 22-Feb-12 11:36:07

I really enjoyed it, much more than I expected to ... I found the train moment absolutely heart stopping. Horrible.

Tilly, Are we allowed to post questions yet because I won't be back until late on Tues night and will miss the live discussion?

AlmaMartyr Wed 22-Feb-12 11:38:25

I finished it last weekend and loved it. Left me feeling very exhausted and a bit emotional. I'm ashamed to admit I've never read any Hemingway but will be giving it a try now.

Hullygully Wed 22-Feb-12 11:41:01

About half way. Hadley is a terrible drip. If I were Ernest I would have pushed her under the train for losing all his work.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 12:29:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AlmaMartyr Wed 22-Feb-12 12:33:33

SGM - yes, I don't understand it being sold as romantic although I was glad that she seemed to end up with a decent man in the end. I want to read Hemingway just because I feel guilty that I never have - I've read a bit about him but not actually opened one of his books and I'd be interested to see what they're like.

Hullygully Wed 22-Feb-12 12:38:05

I am half way through, but haven't seen Ernest to be a misogynist yet, or not as portrayed in the book. I wonder if Hadley really did lack all personality in real life?

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 12:38:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Wed 22-Feb-12 12:41:06

So far I think he wants her to be his mum.

Hullygully Wed 22-Feb-12 12:46:19

She has to sit in the corner a lot, doesn't she? And watch a lot of fishing. She must have been terribly bored, or brain dead.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 12:47:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Wed 22-Feb-12 13:00:23

<struggles to remember the mother sub themne>

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 13:07:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Teaddict Wed 22-Feb-12 13:32:58

Yes she's a drip but she has loads of female friends who all seem to adore her (even the one who stole her husband) so maybe it's just because it's written from her pov that we don't get her full character?

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 13:34:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Wed 22-Feb-12 14:49:03

I think she's only a drip in today's context, in those days options for women were so limited apart from marriage and babies, the gertrude steins were very much the exception.

I think he is an arse, but then I think nearly all artistic types are arses in their personal life (I speak from experience as I work in that world) grin

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 22-Feb-12 18:24:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Thu 23-Feb-12 08:20:52

She gave birth last night. How is it possible to dislike someone even while they are having a baby? (Me, not Tatie/Tiny/Hem. Vom)

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 23-Feb-12 10:11:18

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret

I really enjoyed it, much more than I expected to ... I found the train moment absolutely heart stopping. Horrible.

Tilly, Are we allowed to post questions yet because I won't be back until late on Tues night and will miss the live discussion?

Yes, do post your questions to Paula if you're unable to make it on Tuesday.

aristocat Thu 23-Feb-12 13:09:42

I have also finished reading this and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would smile

Thank You

BearlyThere Thu 23-Feb-12 13:14:18

i really enjoyed it tbh.
Didnt find main protagonist a drip. just young and stypid

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Thu 23-Feb-12 13:27:49

Thaks Tily

Hello Paula, congratulations on the book which I really enjoyed. My question (I have loads but will limit myself) is where the original inspiration came from to write it? Were you a big Hemingway fan initially and what aspect about the Hadley story appealed to you?

Thank you

DuchessofMalfi Thu 23-Feb-12 18:22:25

Following on from your question, areyouthere, I would like to know whether, if it was Hemingway that Paula McLain was interested in, whether she is planning to follow up Hadley's story with the stories of Hemingway's other wives or whether she felt that Hadley's story was the most interesting and has no further plans in that direction?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel, and have put it back on the shelf to re-read shortly.

Hullygully Fri 24-Feb-12 10:01:54

I finished it last night. What interests me is that the book is about Hemingway, Hadley is merely a prism through which we see him and very uninteresting in her own right, and she is indeed, as she feared she might be, simply The Paris Wife.

Was that intentional?

Great questions so far - keep putting them up here and I will forward to Paula on Monday.

Looking forward to seeing you all Tues eve...

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 24-Feb-12 11:50:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Fri 24-Feb-12 12:00:24

yep, deffo agree there.

"Oh you've had sex with Pfife."

"What did you have to say that for you silly bitch? You've spoilt everything. We could have just all carried on with me with my cake and you dripping about almost playing the piano."

Very deeply romantic.

Hullygully Fri 24-Feb-12 12:01:03

Mind you, I liked mad old Zelda.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 24-Feb-12 12:03:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hullygully Fri 24-Feb-12 12:06:53

It felt to me as if you were slightly intimidated by your material - so much is known about the characters (not ol drippy) and they are so mythologised, it read to me as if you drew them based on research that perhaps you could point to afterwards and say, yes, they did, or, yes, that did happen, and were wary of stepping beyond that - but that unfortunately ended up meaning they were outlines of their mythologised selves.

Or maybe they really were all just deeply unsympathetic human beings...

Hullygully Fri 24-Feb-12 12:14:27

The bits about writing were v gd, btw, clear understanding shown there!

Nevergarglebrandybutter Sun 26-Feb-12 09:44:22

I loved this book. The setting and the characters.
Was it romantic? YES! and here's why.
It was romantic from Hadley's perspective. The alternatives for her were pretty grim. And then she was swept up into romance with Ernest. Yes, yes of course he married her for his own needs, but she loved him anyway. Her love for him was unconditional. She couldn't believe her luck when this handsome charismatic man wanted her.
As for how he treated her, not so romantic. What an arsehole. He pushed Hadley's unconditional love to the limits. And she was so paralysed by her fear of losing him she didn't give him those boundaries, and ultimately allowed him to mess it all up.
He was very childlike in this manner I thought and it does make me think there was some freudian mother issues and that Hadley was expected to mother him. He didn't want another child around to distract her from her devotion to her did he. All very reminiscent of his relationship with his mother.
In the end, he admits he ruined it all, and I find that romantic too. It took him his whole life to realise what he had and how he had messed it all up. I'm sure he had regrets.
But Hadley didn't ultimately regret any of it. What would have happened to her if Ernest hadn't taken her away from her life? She still loved him even though she couldn't be with him. And what an experience to be the wife of a literary giant, in the beginning, and in Paris, and in the 1920s! (I'm turning into Woody Allen). Who could regret that?

Hadley wasn't heroic. At times she was strong and sure of herself. But for the most part she was just hanging around on the sidelines and not making much of a life for herself. Bit pathetic really, especially as there were plenty women at that time making there own way...and making effort with the fashions! Arrgh what a waste of being in the 1920s. Anyway, i don't think the author can be blamed for a lack of a heroine in the story. It's a true story and Hadley was who she was, her circumstances were interesting, and the people around her were interesting, even if she failed to blossom from that into the heroine we would like to see.

Anyway, feel free to disagree with me. I'm off to think of some questions for the author.

Nevergarglebrandybutter Sun 26-Feb-12 11:32:33

Questions for Paula Mclain.
Do you think Hadley could have done anything differently to save their marriage?
Is 1920s Paris, you're own personal golden era? Where would woody allens church bells at midnight take you?
Which character do you indentify most with?

Just a reminder to pop any advance q's up here, see y'all tomorrow 9pm..

whereismywine Mon 27-Feb-12 13:43:24

Paula thank you, I enjoyed this and it is not my usual genre (so thanks to for MN for pushing me outside of usual territory). It isn't a slice of history I knew very much about at all and found the insight fascinating. I guess I felt frustrated with Hadley too - but as this is, I imagine, as she was, much as it is hard for me to imagine not having a very different outlook on being treated so shoddily. I'd have told him to f**k off when he was dripping himself over Duff. But still. Deeply romantic? Well, there was love. And I empathised so fully with Hadley at some of the most painful parts and for being so in love with someone and at the mercy of that. Ouch.

I had to skip out some of the bull bits - sorry, too squeamy. Anyone else find this?

My question is one of geographies. Throughout, I found myself wondering at the travel and destinations and if you'd been to these places as part of your research? Did any of the writing take place on location? I imagined you writing in Paris cafes whilst contemplating a drink of absinthe smile

AlmaMartyr Mon 27-Feb-12 14:20:19

I felt a bit frustrated with Hadley but more upset for her really. I was very surprised she put up with him and the affair for so long but I think she was very dependent on him. I read it as if she tied her whole identity into him from when they met and couldn't break away from that. I really felt for her when she was worrying about just being the 'Paris wife' and how people would perceive her. When my marriage was in trouble one of the things that scared me most (and really surprised me!) was how worried I was about how it would look like some kind of "starter marriage" rather than the meaningful relationship I thought it was (everything OK now btw).

Do you think the much older Hadley at the end still wished her marriage to Hemingway had worked out? I was very happy for her when she met Charlie (hope I've remembered that right!) and got treated well but I thought I picked up a vibe that she was still in love with Ernest?

I was also a little surprised that she moved back to Paris? It felt a bit strange given that it seemed like it had always been Ernest's 'place', it never seemed like she was at home there. She said it was so Bumby could be near Ernest but the relationship between Bumby and Ernest never seemed very close to me - I never got a sense of them bonding - so I thought it was a little weird that she felt it was so important for them to be together?

From a couple of the bits written by Ernest, I vaguely got the impression that he never did love her, or never actually thought of himself as loving her (until maybe later, when he calls her up?) and that he was marrying her to save himself in some way. Did he then resent her for not being able to do that? I imagine that the resentment of her losing his work must have been massive but it does make me wonder if he'd have been so successful if he hadn't had that clean slate?

turkeyboots Mon 27-Feb-12 15:00:21

I enjoyed it very much, not my normal genre at all. And I hate Hemmingway, had too many teenage boys in my year mooning over him. But may give it him a go again, the context your book gave it has made me want to read some, which is a achievement! Is there anything you recommend?

I loved the living in poverty in Paris with a cleaner/cook and Nanny. How realisitc was that?

Abcinthia Mon 27-Feb-12 15:43:31

Hello Paula, I enjoyed the book very much.

My question is how much research did you do before writing the book and were there any parts which you could not research, so had to put together yourself?

aristocat Mon 27-Feb-12 22:36:08

I felt quite sorry for Hadley, she was young and immature and obsessed with Ernest.

How did you decide to write a book on this lady, was it their relationship you were interested in or Hemingway in general?

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 28-Feb-12 08:39:25

Paula, thanks for an interesting and beautifully written book. I feel like i learned something reading this book (to my shame i knew nothing of Hemmingway's life). I have decided to read some of his books now, any you would recommend?
Question: why did you choose to write about real life characters? Similar to others, i am interested to know about any research you did prior to starting writing.
Looking forward to the discussion tonight.

southlondonlady Tue 28-Feb-12 10:33:49

Enjoying the book so far but haven't finished it so going to have to sit this one out...have fun all and I look forward to coming back and reading the thread later.

valiumpoptarts Tue 28-Feb-12 12:38:27

Hi Paula,
I'm about halfway through the book and really enjoying it smile I used to be quite a fan of Hemmingway in my youth, but reading this as an adult I find him self obsessive to an annoying degree. Talented, but not someone I'd want to hang out with. So my question is, did writing the book change your opinion at all about any of the charactors. And (if I'm allowed an and) do you like Hemmingway or did you write this because you feel for Hadley?

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Tue 28-Feb-12 13:32:27

Hi Paula, thanks for an amazing book, it's not the sort I'd normally purchase, but am really enjoying it (sorry I haven't finished it yet) I've deliberately avoided hemmingway in the past as I thought with so much hype it would never be that good, but I think I'll have to give him a try.

I'm very curious as to why you chose to write about Hadley, and if your views on her changed as yo uwrote the book?

Thanks again, will definitely be looking at more books in this genre

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 13:45:51

Test

I haven't finished the book yet and as much as I am enjoying your writing Paula, I am struggling with the subject matter. Like SGM I am finding it very misogynistic and not at all romantic (in fact a bit sinister at the moment).

The question I'd like to ask is how much you knew about Hadley and Ernest's relationship before you started researching and writing the book?

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 28-Feb-12 17:39:53

Yet again I've read the book of the month and then am out on book club night <sigh>
Anyway just wanted to say I really enjoyed it - had just seen midnight in Paris so imagined Hemingway as the actor in that all the way through and felt v much steeped in the era. The bit I found hardest was the betrayal by the friend and the reaction of Hadley to that, just made me so sad, even though you could see it coming and had indeed been warned all the way through that the ending wasn't happy.

I immediately wanted to go away and read more about the real Hadley/ Hemingway relationship, and my question and it's a tricky one is how much is fact and how much is fiction and how do you decide where to allow poetic license? Would you choose another "real life" event or person again for a novel or has this made you want to do a complete fictional work next time. Sorry two questions. Thanks so much for coming on Mn and for a great book. Have a great evening all.

PS was I the only one who wondered what the AIBU posts might have been like if Hem and Hadley had had MN...
AIBU to expect my wife not to lose my entire life's work on a train?
AIBU to expect my best friend not to steal my dh while on a jolly ski trip and wearing my best slippers
AIBU to expect to waltz off for weeks on end and leave my toddler with a French cleaner?
... it's Ok I'll stop now...

MamaMary Tue 28-Feb-12 17:59:20

I did find the book romantic actually. I thought it was like any relationship early on when both parties are caught up in it and head over heels in love. Although the warning signs were there from early on too.

I sympthaised a lot with Hadley and found her character very sympathetic and her integrity shone through. The rest of them seemed utterly pretentious and unbearable. I think Hadley would have been the only one would have I liked if I'd met them.

While I was sad at how Hadley was treated and that the marriage ended, she was well rid of him and it was the best thing for her. The ending of the novel - when she was older and heard about his death - was so elegaic.

Well done - I really enjoyed it and it will stay with me.

Nevergarglebrandybutter Tue 28-Feb-12 20:24:31

elegiac! i've learnt a new word. grin

MamaMary Tue 28-Feb-12 20:43:54

At least you can spell it - I should have checked the dictionary first!

Evening everyone

Valentine's Day romance it ain't. But Febuary's choice did cheer up this dreary month by keeping me engrossed every night and making me feel brilliantly educated about the arty Twenties crowd. THE PARIS WIFE has been a wonderfully atmospheric and thought-provoking read, and I am thrilled that Paula McLain is here to throw light on the inspiration and research behind her book.

There is much to discuss, so without further ado....

Paula, firstly, thank you very much indeed to taking the time to join us. And many congratulations on a beautifully written and expertly realised novel. We'll kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread. And then we'll aim to get through as many new ones as possible over the next hour (although getting through all the posts above may take a good chunk of that...)

I'd also like to add our two standard MN Bookclub questions (which we like to ask all authors, and will be archived on the site):

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:02:00

Thanks so much, Tilly. Delighted to be here--virtually, obviously. It's a gray and dreary 4 PM in Cleveland, Ohio!

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:03:00

And to answer your question, Tilly, my advice to aspiring writers is always the same—to read, read, read, particularly in the genre in which you’re writing, and to persevere. More than talent, I admire gumption and passion. The world is always poised to tell you no—so are agents, editors, readers. You have to believe in your projects, finish them, and be committed to getting better, sentence by sentence, book by book.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:04:37

Oops..missed a question there, too! The book I found most inspirational when I was a young girl was a biography of the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and her adventures with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. I was completely transfixed by it, and had lots of juicy fantasies about running away to be a cowgirl. I also really loved Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. I’ve been reading that to my kids (5 and 7) lately, and we got to the part where Charlotte dies. I completely lost control and couldn’t stop crying. Ugh. Poor Charlotte! My children both looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, naturally!

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:05:58

Thanks so much for your response! I'm a terrible speller myself, but I like what you've said about the end of the book--quite. These two break my heart in all sorts of ways....

MamaMary

I did find the book romantic actually. I thought it was like any relationship early on when both parties are caught up in it and head over heels in love. Although the warning signs were there from early on too.

I sympthaised a lot with Hadley and found her character very sympathetic and her integrity shone through. The rest of them seemed utterly pretentious and unbearable. I think Hadley would have been the only one would have I liked if I'd met them.

While I was sad at how Hadley was treated and that the marriage ended, she was well rid of him and it was the best thing for her. The ending of the novel - when she was older and heard about his death - was so elegaic.

Well done - I really enjoyed it and it will stay with me.

suzannened Tue 28-Feb-12 21:07:33

Hi Paula,
I really enjoyed the book - & whilst I can see why many people don't consider it 'romantic' I did think it was a very moving story of Hadley & Hemingway's romance.
What I'd like to ask is how hard it was to stick to the real story - did you ever wish it possible to rewrite how the relationship fell apart for Hadley? And was it difficult to keep Hadley's character from being swamped by the larger than life personality of Hemingway?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:08:59

Thanks for your question. It actually never occurred to me to write a historical novel before I stumbled onto A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s memoir of his upstart years in Paris. His portrayal of his marriage to Hadley was so tender and so moving to me that I sought out biographies of her life to learn more about who she was. That’s when it struck me that she would make an incredible speaker for a novel. From that moment on, I didn’t look back or ask myself if I could do it (had the skills to do it) because the inspiration felt so right, and I had such an emotional connection to the material.

I wasn’t a huge Hemingway fan before I began, and that probably helped a great deal. I wasn’t pinned down to any agenda with him, and could simply get to know him the way Hadley did, through her eyes.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret

Thaks Tily

Hello Paula, congratulations on the book which I really enjoyed. My question (I have loads but will limit myself) is where the original inspiration came from to write it? Were you a big Hemingway fan initially and what aspect about the Hadley story appealed to you?

Thank you

Morgan Tue 28-Feb-12 21:09:52

Hi Paula I loved the book and have recommended it to my book club. I have just got moveable feast from the library . How will it compare to your book ? thanks.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:12:00

Good question! It was terribly difficult to stick to the real story at times. I wanted to shake them both more than once! And yet early on I decided that because Hadley was a real woman who actually lived, I had a certain responsibility to take her as I found her, and not judge her if I could help it.

suzannened

Hi Paula,
I really enjoyed the book - & whilst I can see why many people don't consider it 'romantic' I did think it was a very moving story of Hadley & Hemingway's romance.
What I'd like to ask is how hard it was to stick to the real story - did you ever wish it possible to rewrite how the relationship fell apart for Hadley? And was it difficult to keep Hadley's character from being swamped by the larger than life personality of Hemingway?

kittysaysmiaow Tue 28-Feb-12 21:12:09

Hi Paula
Congratulations on the novel, I really enjoyed it. As a travel nut I particularly liked all the details of their jollies to various glamorous locations. They knew how to holiday in style smile

I wanted to ask about when Hadley left Ernest's work on the train. It seemed such a key point in the novel. Was this event the beginning of the end for them, and what effect did it have on their relationship? Also... <sneaky> did this happened as described in real life?

Thanks for taking part in this discussion.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:13:27

Hi, Morgan. A Moveable Feast is hard to take at times. In it, EH romanticizes his early self, gently remembers Hadley--but also tells some pretty snarky stories about good friends and colleagues. The man had a particular talent for pissing people off and losing friends!

Morgan

Hi Paula I loved the book and have recommended it to my book club. I have just got moveable feast from the library . How will it compare to your book ? thanks.

Morgan Tue 28-Feb-12 21:16:00

Thanks a lot - will enjoy comparing them .

highlandcoo Tue 28-Feb-12 21:16:01

Paula, you talk about admiring gumption, passion and commitment in writers and these qualities shone out for me in your depiction of the character of Hemingway in the book. His faith in his potential to produce great writing seems to almost justify his selfishness at times ( to him and those around him if not to modern women today!) Hadley seems to feel that when she married him, she signed up to his needs coming first - that was the deal. I think the comments describing her as drippy/stupid are failing to understand that. I really liked her as a character.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:16:11

Hi, there. Ernest Hemingway gets a lot of flack—particularly from women—for his various (and numerous) flaws and often rightly so. And still, I hope my readers can stay open to him as a character and appreciate him for the deeply complex person he was. I don’t forgive him for everything—hardly. And yet I’m inclined to agree with Hadley, who said that Ernest had more sides to him than any geometry book could chart. That’s the sense I got from researching his life so intensely.

Whether we like it or not, we humans are all a terrible mess, aren’t we?

valiumpoptarts

Hi Paula,
I'm about halfway through the book and really enjoying it smile I used to be quite a fan of Hemmingway in my youth, but reading this as an adult I find him self obsessive to an annoying degree. Talented, but not someone I'd want to hang out with. So my question is, did writing the book change your opinion at all about any of the charactors. And (if I'm allowed an and) do you like Hemmingway or did you write this because you feel for Hadley?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:17:51

Nicely said--thanks! I actually understand how Hadley might seem uninteresting to some—she’s not an “Artist” at the center of Gertrude Stein’s salon, and not a striver. Her ambitions are personal, interior, and specific to her. She wants to be a wife and mother, a friend, a lover, a muse—and is all of those things in her marriage to Ernest. It might be difficult for some to believe that achieving these “domestic” goals could make her feel complete—and yet they very much seemed to.

highlandcoo

Paula, you talk about admiring gumption, passion and commitment in writers and these qualities shone out for me in your depiction of the character of Hemingway in the book. His faith in his potential to produce great writing seems to almost justify his selfishness at times ( to him and those around him if not to modern women today!) Hadley seems to feel that when she married him, she signed up to his needs coming first - that was the deal. I think the comments describing her as drippy/stupid are failing to understand that. I really liked her as a character.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:18:59

My favorite Hemingway is actually a collection of stories he was working on at the time of their marriage--In Our Time. Gorgeously written.

Morgan

Thanks a lot - will enjoy comparing them .

Thank you - I like those answers very much. I adore Charlotte's Web, rather fancy having RadiantPig as my Mumsnet login.

Now for my specifically Paris Wife q's:

Are some of Ernest's phrases in the book (for example, when he says 'One story for everything I know. Really know, in my bones and in my gut') actually taken from real life? Did you have to tread quite carefully in terms of what you could conjure up and what you might want to take verbatim from letters, memoirs etc?

What do you think Hadley would have done if she hadn't married Ernest? Stayed a maiden aunt, drinking tea with Ruth and Bertha? Or married a very boring type from St Louis just to avoid spinsterhood? Or do you think she had a spark in her that would have led to a unusual life no matter what?

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 28-Feb-12 21:21:18

Paula,
Thanks for taking part in this discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed your style of writing and it has opened up a whole new genre to me. thanks.
my question - can you tell us about other books you have written, which of yours would you recommend next?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:21:33

Oh, dear! That would be worse than Anna Karenina--as she at least got to throw herself under the train!

Hullygully

About half way. Hadley is a terrible drip. If I were Ernest I would have pushed her under the train for losing all his work.

suzannened Tue 28-Feb-12 21:22:21

Thanks for the answer. I too wanted to shake them at times - knowing they were real people in situations that actually happened made their actions infuriating sometimes and also knowing that the split was inevitable was hard. I think that wanting a better outcome for Hadley despite knowing this is testament to how well you portrayed her

tiddleypompom Tue 28-Feb-12 21:23:35

Do you believe that Hadley was indeed a 'muse' then? You used this term in response to a previous question. I was moved by how hurt she had been to read no mention of her in 'Sun' when she was given the first draft - almost as if she was not interesting enough to inspire recollection within his works (other than memoirs).

I have thoroughly enjoyed the book by the way.

highlandcoo Tue 28-Feb-12 21:25:58

Thanks for your answer, Paula. Like Morgan, I'm planning to read A Moveable Feast now and will be interested to see it from EH's side!

Another controversial issue re Hemngway, abhorrent to so many people nowadays, is his passion for bullfighting, which I thought you conveyed very convincingly. Were these scenes difficult to write?

MamaMary Tue 28-Feb-12 21:28:03

I don't agree, Hullygully - Hadley is not a drip - maybe just a bit more prosaic than the bohemian types who surrounded her. smile I wonder, Paula, how did you feel about 'the lost generation' when you were doing your research? I found them quite irritating in their hedonism, snobbishness and immorality. Hadley was a refreshing contrast. I wonder did you mean this to come across, or is it just my reading?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 28-Feb-12 21:33:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:33:46

I DO think it was the beginning of the end for them. If you think about it, he counted on her to be absolutely dependable and reliable, and in that moment he couldn't help but begin to doubt her.

She never lived down that moment, was never quite about to forget it for all of her long life. So tragic!

[/quote]

kittysaysmiaow

Hi Paula
Congratulations on the novel, I really enjoyed it. As a travel nut I particularly liked all the details of their jollies to various glamorous locations. They knew how to holiday in style smile

I wanted to ask about when Hadley left Ernest's work on the train. It seemed such a key point in the novel. Was this event the beginning of the end for them, and what effect did it have on their relationship? Also... <sneaky> did this happened as described in real life?

Thanks for taking part in this discussion.

Just to say Paula's computer is taking ages to load/reload so apologies for the wait. We'll aim to get through everyone's questions...

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:38:51

It's not an easy dynamic to digest, truly, but "romance" doesn't always mean "ends well." I do think they loved each other through all their flaws and bad decisions....

StewieGriffinsMom

I find the construction of "romance" in such an obviously abusive relationship very difficult to understand.

kittysaysmiaow Tue 28-Feb-12 21:40:01

Thanks Paula. It IS really sad when you think of it like that, especially as she had such good intentions. sad

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:45:08

I think it was incredibly difficult for Hadley--this quiet Victorian girl--to find herself thrust into Bohemian Paris. All those huge egos! They were irritating, and hedonistic. I think of Hadley as a woman trapped between generations. She was surrounded by “modern” women in Paris, but she wasn’t that—wasn’t a flapper, wasn't at all like Zelda Fitzgerald, or sophisticated and cultured like Duff Twysden or Sara Murphy, or shrewd and self-confident like Pauline Pfeiffer. But she had her own kind of strength, and she did manage to hold her own in her marriage to Hemingway, although it doesn't always look that way from a distance.

MamaMary

I don't agree, Hullygully - Hadley is not a drip - maybe just a bit more prosaic than the bohemian types who surrounded her. smile I wonder, Paula, how did you feel about 'the lost generation' when you were doing your research? I found them quite irritating in their hedonism, snobbishness and immorality. Hadley was a refreshing contrast. I wonder did you mean this to come across, or is it just my reading?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:46:55

They were hard to imagine--I'd certainly never seen a bullfight! But I liked thinking of her sitting ringside, feather stitching baby clothes--that play between softness and violence, feminine and masculine, life and death...

highlandcoo

Thanks for your answer, Paula. Like Morgan, I'm planning to read A Moveable Feast now and will be interested to see it from EH's side!

Another controversial issue re Hemngway, abhorrent to so many people nowadays, is his passion for bullfighting, which I thought you conveyed very convincingly. Were these scenes difficult to write?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:49:25

AGREED!!

kittysaysmiaow

Thanks Paula. It IS really sad when you think of it like that, especially as she had such good intentions. sad

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:53:35

I think she was a muse for him--but more than this supported and bolstered his career--and his life. She was essential to his emotional makeup and stability. For that reason, I think she was quite hurt not to find herself in The Sun Also Rises. He was everything to her; wasn't she everything to him???

tiddleypompom

Do you believe that Hadley was indeed a 'muse' then? You used this term in response to a previous question. I was moved by how hurt she had been to read no mention of her in 'Sun' when she was given the first draft - almost as if she was not interesting enough to inspire recollection within his works (other than memoirs).

I have thoroughly enjoyed the book by the way.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:55:18

Thank you! I've written another novel--though quite different--titled A Ticket to Ride, and also a memoir about growing up in foster care, which I did, titled Like Family. I also have two books of poetry, but I'm not sure anyone reads poetry these days!!

yUMMYmUMMYb

Paula,
Thanks for taking part in this discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed your style of writing and it has opened up a whole new genre to me. thanks.
my question - can you tell us about other books you have written, which of yours would you recommend next?

highlandcoo Tue 28-Feb-12 21:56:25

Thanks Paula. I really enjoyed the book, especially having just read For Whom the Bell Tolls with my book group at the local library. Will now be recommending The Paris Wife to them as an interesting linked read smile

tiddleypompom Tue 28-Feb-12 21:57:47

Yes. She was given a dedication though wasn't she? Apologies I can't recall if you actually quoted this in your novel?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:58:20

I also think it's hard for women of our generation to understand another way of being a woman, of being married. It's complicated, truly, but for a time, Hadley got exactly what she wanted in her marriage. It might not be what WE would want for her, but just the same...

highlandcoo

Paula, you talk about admiring gumption, passion and commitment in writers and these qualities shone out for me in your depiction of the character of Hemingway in the book. His faith in his potential to produce great writing seems to almost justify his selfishness at times ( to him and those around him if not to modern women today!) Hadley seems to feel that when she married him, she signed up to his needs coming first - that was the deal. I think the comments describing her as drippy/stupid are failing to understand that. I really liked her as a character.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 21:59:48

I think Hadley did her absolute best, and then walked away when she had to.

As for my particular Golden Era, I might have liked to live in turn of the century New York, in the pages of an Edith Wharton novel!!

Nevergarglebrandybutter

Questions for Paula Mclain.
Do you think Hadley could have done anything differently to save their marriage?
Is 1920s Paris, you're own personal golden era? Where would woody allens church bells at midnight take you?
Which character do you indentify most with?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 28-Feb-12 22:00:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 22:00:49

No worries--and yes, he dedicated The Sun Also Rises to her and to Bumby--and gave her the royalties, too!

tiddleypompom

Yes. She was given a dedication though wasn't she? Apologies I can't recall if you actually quoted this in your novel?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 22:03:11

Thanks so much to all of you for signing in, and for reading. I'm chagrined that because of my computer troubles, it wasn't so much a discussion as my staggering along after the discussion, but I promise to get to all of your questions as soon as I'm able! Now off to make dinner for my not-so-patient children. All the best to all of you!!

tiddleypompom Tue 28-Feb-12 22:04:00

My son has become Bumby in dedication grin

I've been struggling too - my computer froze on me for 15 minutes...

Paula, thank you very very much indeed for all your thoughtful and insightful answers. It has been such a pleasure to have you here, and such a pleasure to read your excellent novel. And even more brilliant of you to fit this chat in just before kids supper...

if you get a chance to answer the remaining questions then that would be wonderful and hugely appreciated, but absolutely no worries if you can't.

Looking forward to seeing what you write next, and good luck with it all.

Many thanks again, it's been a great evening.

And lastly, for those wondering what's in store for next month, we'll be chatting to the delightful Esther Freud on Tuesday 27 March. March Book of the Month goes live just before midday tomorrow - and there's 100 copies of LUCKY BREAK, Esther's latest novel, to giveaway so keep your eyes peeled...

As always, thanks to everyone for making this such a lively and thoughtful chat. Hope to see y'all in a few weeks.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 22:26:34

I DID in fact have to tread carefully, as I didn't have permission to quote him verbatim. What he says in the book, then, is what he MIGHT say given what I know from his letters, work, biographies, etc.

And yes, I think Hadley may well have lived a very restricted life in St. Louis if not for Ernest. The mature Hadley once said, "When I decided to hook my star to Ernest's, I exploded into life." For better or worse, her life does become richer for her marriage.

TillyBookClub

Thank you - I like those answers very much. I adore Charlotte's Web, rather fancy having RadiantPig as my Mumsnet login.

Now for my specifically Paris Wife q's:

Are some of Ernest's phrases in the book (for example, when he says 'One story for everything I know. Really know, in my bones and in my gut') actually taken from real life? Did you have to tread quite carefully in terms of what you could conjure up and what you might want to take verbatim from letters, memoirs etc?

What do you think Hadley would have done if she hadn't married Ernest? Stayed a maiden aunt, drinking tea with Ruth and Bertha? Or married a very boring type from St Louis just to avoid spinsterhood? Or do you think she had a spark in her that would have led to a unusual life no matter what?

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 22:28:36

It was a shocking amount of work--yes! And thank goodness I didn't know there were all these Hemingway experts out there, ready to pounce if I got anything wrong!

coppertop

This wasn't the kind of book I would normally buy, and usually anything with "deeply romantic" on the back cover would have me running for the hills. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. I'm also secretly in awe of how much work must have gone into researching it all.

PaulaMcLain Tue 28-Feb-12 22:41:33

Thanks for your remarks, Carrie. I used the historical facts on record to provide the framework or scaffolding of the book. They sailed to Paris on such and such a date, etc. Everywhere they lived and traveled, who they met, the significance of their circle. What I couldn't know was their inner lives, what they said to one another, what they fought about. I had to project myself imaginatively into that space and invent a truth for them.

carriemumsnet

Yet again I've read the book of the month and then am out on book club night <sigh>
Anyway just wanted to say I really enjoyed it - had just seen midnight in Paris so imagined Hemingway as the actor in that all the way through and felt v much steeped in the era. The bit I found hardest was the betrayal by the friend and the reaction of Hadley to that, just made me so sad, even though you could see it coming and had indeed been warned all the way through that the ending wasn't happy.

I immediately wanted to go away and read more about the real Hadley/ Hemingway relationship, and my question and it's a tricky one is how much is fact and how much is fiction and how do you decide where to allow poetic license? Would you choose another "real life" event or person again for a novel or has this made you want to do a complete fictional work next time. Sorry two questions. Thanks so much for coming on Mn and for a great book. Have a great evening all.

PS was I the only one who wondered what the AIBU posts might have been like if Hem and Hadley had had MN...
AIBU to expect my wife not to lose my entire life's work on a train?
AIBU to expect my best friend not to steal my dh while on a jolly ski trip and wearing my best slippers
AIBU to expect to waltz off for weeks on end and leave my toddler with a French cleaner?
... it's Ok I'll stop now...

Nevergarglebrandybutter Tue 28-Feb-12 22:44:02

Thanks Paula, A great book.

Hullygully Wed 29-Feb-12 09:05:43

Oh bum...completely forgot this!

I missed you Hully. I wanted to hear your digested read, digested.

March's book is Lucky Break by Esther Freud. Chat with Esther is on Tues 27 March. Hope you can make it...

MamaMary Wed 29-Feb-12 13:17:27

Thanks for answering the questions Paula! smile Very interesting.

Hullygully Wed 29-Feb-12 13:44:46

Here it is (a bit late)

Paris, absinthe, infidelity, egotism, bull(s)

...

Have ordered the next.

elkiedee Wed 29-Feb-12 22:09:15

I'm sorry to have missed the discussion, mainly because I was very tired and had curled up on the sofa! I read The Paris Wife a little while ago and really enjoyed it. Others who liked The Paris Wife or even didn't, but want to see his version, might find A Moveable Feast interesting - it was written near the end of his life and published after his death. I'm planning to read the first volume of his collected letters very soon, which goes up to 1922 so presumably includes letters to Hadley - it's a review copy, it's a rather beautiful hardback but a bit heavy to cart around in the bookbag I lug to work and back every day.

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