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Reading Between The Wines: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Posted Mar 12 2013 12:23am

RBTW - The Paris Wife

This weekend marked the second meeting of Reading Between the Wines . Our book selection this time around was a lot different than our first pick , but I love variety and jumping from young adult to historical fiction is pretty much my normal reading routine. Plus, I’d been wanting to read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain for a long time, so I was excited to see it on the list.

Nicole was the hostess this time around, and when she mentioned she would be making quiche, the rest of us followed suit with French-inspired dishes. After all, the best way to get in the mood to talk about Paris is bread, cheese and wine, in no particular order.


We started out with an assortment of breads, meats and cheeses from Emily. The marcona almonds, grapes and figs were perfect accompaniments. I definitely went back for seconds (and thirds).



I also supplied one of the appetizers: Red Pepper, Basil and Parmesan Gougères. I’ll share the recipe in my next post because these were awesome and incredibly easy to make.



Nicole supplied two types of quiche. I had the larger one, which was a combination of green beans and goat cheese and tasted fantastic. She also had two varieties of Perrier for us. C’est magnifique!



Sheena brought us all a very sweet way to end the evening: chocolate and sugar-glazed eclairs!


Once we had piled our plates and poured ourselves a glass of wine, it was time to talk in Ernest.

Yeah. You know I was excited to use that one.

The Paris Wife

In Short

This book tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. It’s a beautifully detailed account of what life was like for the “Lost Generation” of writers and artists who lived in 1920s Paris – Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few. Ernest Hemingway has yet to write the books that will make him a household name. He is simply a young man with big dreams and a seemingly even bigger love for Hadley, whom he sweeps off her feet and across the ocean – away from her Midwestern home and family in search of a life of meaning.

Of course, when they arrive in Paris they are nowhere close to prepared for the fast-paced, heavy-drinking and free-loving lifestyle that the city offers during this era, and drama inevitably ensues. While Ernest struggles to find his voice and buries himself in his work, Hadley endures her own set of challenges as his wife that will ultimately test the strength of their marriage and everything they’ve fought for. Read this book if you enjoy vivid historical detail that is based on a real story that happened to real people. Just be prepared to feel every emotion imaginable as you turn the pages.

The Details

If you know anything about Ernest Hemingway, you know that he led a very interesting and often times turbulent life. If you know nothing of Ernest Hemingway’s life, I’ll stop there and say no more about it! Paula McLain does an incredible job portraying his character and our book club could all agree that by the end of the book, we had very strong feelings about him.

The character of Hadley was also well developed. She is likeable and you can see why Ernest would fall for her – but it’s also interesting to read how she handles the various challenges that are thrown her way. Since the book is told from her perspective, I had moments where I’d be thinking one thing but she would be thinking something completely different. It was an interesting contrast as a reader, and at times made me confused as to whether I was in support of her actions or whether I wanted her to do a little more of this, a little less of that, etc.

I also enjoyed the interactions that Ernest and Hadley had with the other writers who ran in the Paris circle. If you’ve seen the movie Midnight in Paris , it has a similar feel in that you slowly realize they are all a bit…eccentric, to say the least. The Fitzgeralds might be the craziest. It made me want to learn more about all of these people and read more of their work. I found it fascinating that they would have periods of nonstop writing followed by holidays and vacations that also seemed endless, full of travel, partying and of course, nearly nonstop drinking.

The stark differences between Hadley and the rest of the characters become more obvious as the book progresses, which is why I think it made the most sense to tell the story from her perspective. The general consensus of our book club, I think, was that the plot starts out a bit slow but once they arrive in Paris, every detail of their new life sucks you in. I laughed, I cried, I yelled – seriously, anger was a common occurrence. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but you’ll understand once you read it. And I definitely think you should!

Have you read The Paris Wife ? If so, what did you think?

Looking forward to next month’s Reading Between the Wines. Au revoir for now!



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