The Paris Wife

Sad Thoughts  The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Ballantine Books 2011, eKindle on my iPad.


I can tell that my mother still has amazing powers of influence in my life. Most especially when it comes to books. If she tells me she didn’t care for something, I can bet that I bring a bias to it not easily overcome.

My mom did not like The Paris Wife. I can’t actually remember what exactly she found displeasing or unsuitable, but I do remember she was not fond.

and so, I too was not fond.

Honestly, I was bored.

I did like the protagonist’s name ‘Hadley’.

Why it was her nickname? or why she went by Hadley and not her given name Elizabeth, I don’t recall.

I liked her spunk. Sometimes. By which I mean that sometimes she exhibited some spunk. I didn’t like that she felt lost and overwhelmingly lonesome when Ernie left on his first 3 week assignment. Come on, Hadley!  Find something to do!  (or go get drunk or … pregnant – THAT will fix things. I didn’t get to this point in the book — I am only assuming that might have happened.)

I was amazed that she was willing to hike through the Alps!  I was unimpressed that she chose to wear silly shoes to do so and then felt the need to tell me about it. Be practical, woman!

I don’t know much about Ernie other than to assume I shouldn’t like him. I did google some photos of young Ernie to see what he looked like and I will admit the man was ruggedly handsome. I wasn’t impressed with his moodiness.

I wasn’t impressed with Hadley.

I felt like I was reading a celebrity ‘tell all’ about the poor first wife of some great (?) – famous – person.  But I could never summon enough interest to care; except for wondering about other little things mentioned like the neighborhoods in Chicago/St. Louis and that guy who wrote Winesburg Ohio. His wife was named Tennessee? cool. I know absolutely nothing about Ezra Pound – what a name! Sounds like one from a different time. And Gertrude. I am intrigued by Gertrude Stein.

But this book felt like it was going to ramble on into the Poor-Me stories of the girl who had to clean up with the womenfolk after the big dinner and having to miss the fun of watching the football game on TV. Poor Hadley, missing the big conversations about culture and art and literature.  Hadley had to sit and have tea with Alice instead.

I was spectacularly aware of how each chapter ended with a doomsdayish ominous teaser about the pain ahead.

“Are you happy?” he said softly.
“You know I am.  Do you need to ask?”
“I like asking,” he said. “I like to hear it, even knowing what I’m going to hear.”
“Maybe especially, then,” I said. “Are you happy?”
“Do you need to ask?”
We laughed lightly at one another.

I was annoyed by this book. I made it about 1/4 of the way through.

 Two slices of pie. Avocado Meringue Pie.

For insightful, enlightening and much more credible professional reviews, may I point you to Fyrefly’s book blog search?  or click here – an impressive review at A Work in Progress.


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

23 thoughts on “The Paris Wife

    1. Oh that’s OK. I still learned something and now I have more OTHER books on my tbr. I’m not upset, even if the tone of this review sounds like I might be. (or my response to Vasilly – it does sound like I’m upset. But I’m not.) 🙂

    1. It is always the question, isn’t it? Do I finish and see if it turns around for me? Am I just in the wrong place at this time for this book? or? should I try later???!!
      ANOTHER thing that saddens me about eBooks – now that I have spent the money, it is gone. I can’t donate this book to charity or to the library, give to a friend who actually MIGHT enjoy it, or trade it on bookmooch. It’s lost cash. Sad, I tell ya.

  1. I have been excited to read this one but thanks for the warning that it can be a bit slow. I find it interesting that your literary taste is on par with your mother’s. I generally love books that my mother loves but she can be kind of picky about what she likes, so books that are too depressing or too racy annoy her, so it’s not always a given that I will dislike a book that she disliked.

    1. I’ll update with the vote from club – I think most liked it. I think I was just ‘in a mood’. Hope it wasn’t too harsh that it put you off.
      My mom (as I look around to make sure she isn’t listening) usually doesn’t remember the books she *thinks* she’s read! That is likely why this one made an impression on me = she made quite a face when I told her it was this month’s selection. 😀

  2. I listened to this one on audio and I went into it knowing that I am not a big Hemingway fan but intrigued by the subject. I didn’t like it either. I knew how it was going to end because it was about Hemingway’s first wife and the way he treated Hadley in the second half was almost unbearable to listen to!

  3. UPDATE::: I won’t be able to attend today’s bookclub meeting. I couldn’t get out of my j-o-b (attempt to move to another day didn’t pan out) so I will have to get a report of the overall response to this book. :::

  4. Thanks for the honest review. I keep thinking I “should” read this because it’s getting so much press, but the topic just doesn’t grab me so I’ve been avoiding. I think I’ll just mark it off the list.

  5. Hmm, the “celebrity tell-all” comment puts me off, but I actually find Hemingway fascinating and I’m curious about that Paris crowd, so I still want to read it. Someday I’ll get my mitts on a copy. I’m in no hurry.

  6. I am not so sure about this book. I have an e-copy, I think, but I haven’t been compelled to read it yet. One day I might give it a try, but there are other things I always want to read…

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