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

141 replies

TillyBookClub · 01/02/2012 12:29

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...

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StewieGriffinsMom · 22/02/2012 12:47

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Hullygully · 22/02/2012 13:00
StewieGriffinsMom · 22/02/2012 13:07

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Teaddict · 22/02/2012 13:32

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 · 22/02/2012 13:34

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areyoutheregoditsmemargaret · 22/02/2012 14:49

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 · 22/02/2012 18:24

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Hullygully · 23/02/2012 08:20

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 · 23/02/2012 10:11


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 · 23/02/2012 13:09

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

Thank You

BearlyThere · 23/02/2012 13:14

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

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret · 23/02/2012 13:27

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 · 23/02/2012 18:22

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 · 24/02/2012 10:01

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?

TillyBookClub · 24/02/2012 11:44

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...

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StewieGriffinsMom · 24/02/2012 11:50

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Hullygully · 24/02/2012 12:00

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 · 24/02/2012 12:01

Mind you, I liked mad old Zelda.

StewieGriffinsMom · 24/02/2012 12:03

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Hullygully · 24/02/2012 12:06

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 · 24/02/2012 12:14

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

Nevergarglebrandybutter · 26/02/2012 09:44

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 · 26/02/2012 11:32

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?

TillyBookClub · 27/02/2012 09:40

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

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whereismywine · 27/02/2012 13:43

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

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