One of the best parts of reading an expatriate classic–think Hemingway, Fitzgerald as obvious choices–is that they are real. Hemingway especially based his writing on his own life, travels, even relationships. Yet vulnerable and open as the stories were, they were still fiction; there’s still information left to the imagination, truths stretched into lies, holes you wished were filled in.

And even though it’s fiction’s take on real life yet again, this is why I loved The Paris Wife so. Paula McClain uses a combination of extensive research and imagination to write about Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and their life together–in the very early years as he worked toward his first novel and eventual fame.

The beginning is a simple love story, the stuff of movies. The couple meets, they are drawn to one another, and they face-off the world to make their (Hemingway’s) dreams come true. As they move abroad, make friends, taste success, celebrate life together, they also move through the obvious hardships, and eventually inevitable outcomes.

McClain paints a wonderful picture, one that captures love and beauty but that isn’t afraid to be realistic, just as Hemingway did in his own novels. The Paris Wife is seductive and heartbreaking, engaging and entertaining, and a great tribute to both Hemingway’s style of writing and the life he lived to make him into that writer.


Sarah Ann Noel is a freelance writer, blogger, and public relations professional. She blogs “Read Alert” every week and covers other Denver-related events and thoughts on writing and motherhood on her personal blogCheck back every week for reviews, literary events, and other bookish finds.