It is not surprising that Nancy Horan enthusiastically endorses this book since it is remarkably similar to her book, Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright. Both FLW and Ernest Hemingway were driven to succeed at any cost, and both were amazingly oblivious to the needs of everyone in their lives.
Hadley Hemingway was a victim of her obsession with Ernest and lived in his shadow until he tired of her. It is difficult to feel empathy for someone who so willingly subjugated herself to her husband, and I was incredulous about what she endured at the end of their marriage when Pauline became the third member of their marriage.
The seemingly dissolute lifestyle of the generation of writers who lived in Paris during the 1920s was lamentable because their excesses took precedence over their literary talents. I found the recounting of these excesses eventually became tiresome, and I simply couldnt summon much interest in what happened to Ernest or Hadley. Although fictionalized, this book apparently is an accurate reflection of Hemingways first marriage
At age 28, Hadley Richardson is not likely to get married. But she travels to Chicago and meets 21 year-old Ernest Hemingway. A courtship begins via letter, they eventually marry and then move to Paris so that Ernest can pursue focus on his writing.
This story is told from the point-of-view of Hadley, Hemingways first wife, and what their life in Paris during the 1920s was like. While in Paris, they meet and befriend Gertrude Stein and her lover, Alice Toklas, Ezra Pound and F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, among others.
Hemingway is fairly controlling but Hadley grew up with a controlling mother and had been living with her sister, who was like her mother and very controlling with her husband. Neither had happy marriages and Hadley did not want her marriage to be like either of theirs.
Hadley is supportive of Hemingway throughout the marriage and their life is Paris is not easy. They dont have a lot of money and Hemingway often has trouble writing. Then, Hadley becomes pregnant while they were on vacation and she had forgotten her birth control.
It would appear they will get through these struggles until Hadley befriends Pauline, a friend of one of Hadleys childhood friends who is in Paris. Pauline is the first of Hadleys friends that Ernest can tolerate and she starts to join the Hemingways at their home and on vacations. Until Hadley cannot handle the arrangement and demands a divorce.
I enjoyed this book. The writing is beautiful and the story is well-told.
It was difficult to read this book told from Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley's, experience. Hadley marries Hemingway after a hasty whirlwind courtship (he literally sweeps/dances her off her feet during her first visit to the "big city" of Chicago), but she starts off already counting her own disadvantages. Hadley suspects she's too old, too frumpy, too "dumb" (she is not a writer or artist like Hem and all his acquaintances) for him, and she pretty much puts herself into the defensive position of trying to "retain" Hemingway and keep on being his wife. Not good.
Since this is sort of historical fiction, most of us already know of Hemingway's macho character, his womanizing/drinking ways, and his depression (and ultimate suicide). This is no gentle recount of "Papa" Hemingway, nor is it a fluffy view of his marriage to Hadley. I am not familiar with Hadley nor Hemingway's first marriage but the author does posit that Hemingway did credit his fame (publishing "The Sun Also Rises") to her. To be honest, Hadley lucked out sort of because Hemingway gave her some slack (he mentions her as being the best thing that happened to him, etc... in his memoirs) because I don't feel Hadley would have had it in her to fight Hemingway with a messy divorce.
Worth a read to see the genesis of a lot of Hemingway's books. The bohemian, heavy drinking, partying, loving lifestyle of the Left Bank artists may seem unrealistic to some of us, but this book paints it quite vividly that it is a pleasure to read.
Disappointing. I very likely won't finish it. Too much soap opera. I would have been happier with a historical treatment of the topic than a fictionalized account of the Hemingways' courtship and marriage. I didn't find the dialogue believable. Some have enjoyed this book, it just wasn't my cup of tea.