Hemingway remains one of my favourite writers. I am not sure if Paula banked on Hemingway’s work being cherished by millions when she selected the topic, I strongly suspect she did. And I dare say she was not disappointed, the book is a success.
I devoured it. Some of the critics I respect did not give the book too much credit because it hangs on so tightly to the reality of Hemingway’s existence and depicts Hadley, his first wife, “the Paris wife”, as a weak melodramatic of sorts, who you sympathise with but also want to slap out of her misery. Finally, after five years of being in his shadow, following him around like a well trained puppy, she has the opportunity to do something for herself: the piano concert; she has everything prepared and a booked full house but she does not find the strength to go on with it because it coincides with the moment when Hem is leaving her.  I expected Hadley to react differently up until one point when I realised she will not, that she will patiently let herself driven all the way through as long as Earnest would stand it. Then I tolerantly followed along and enjoyed the story and the times, the wonderful animated twenties.
If you are an enthusiast and know Hemingway’s life you will enjoy being reminded of it all the while wrapped in a romantic blanket. One could argue that it is too well documented, too glued to reality, at one point I suspected Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” to have been inspired from it. The parties, the discussions with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and The Fitzgeralds are all present. There is mentioning of Tristan Tzara and his movement, especially dear to me as he was born a few kilometres away from where I come.If you do not know much about Hemingway’s existence and times, this is a great opportunity.
The language of the book  is casual, nevertheless intellectual and enticing, it sounds like a story that needs to be told and is being told. There are some scenes, five of them, where Earnest is speaking and though they are sharper, there is feeling and boyish confusion. Paula dares give Hemingway emotions that do not necessarily come from his reality. It puzzled me that these scenes existed, because at one point you do not know who is speaking and it takes a few good paragraphs to understand. I thought the whole point is Hadley’s version of her marriage and life with Hemingway. Leaving aside all critique and what should have happened or would have been better, as it is so much easier to condemn  rather than do the work, I was happy to be reminded of the Spanish corrida, the war where Hemingway served and was wounded, the mountains in Italy, little towns where I too have been and could tenderly revisit. And there is Paris. Paris with its parties, bars open all night, noise and tremor, bohemian in all its splendour,  Paris as it most certainly was and will probably never be again.
I vote for the book. It might not have a strong leading character who conquers the world and defeats all evil, but there is love; more for the other than for oneself, enough to endure paucity of basics even, enough to excuse and make you feel for Hadley.

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