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The Dog Ear: 'The Paris Wife' in review

Campus Correspondent

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 21:02

Have you ever read a book expecting it to turn out one way but the more you read, the more you realize how wrong you were? That’s how I felt when I read “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. The description on the back cover hinted that this would not be the sappy love story I was looking for so I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Nonetheless, the romantic in me proceeded to read, searching for the happy ending I wanted to put me in the Valentine’s Day spirit. After all, Paris was involved.

With a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was hoping for a love story that matched the image I held in my mind of being in Paris with a loved one. Walking hand in hand by the Seine River, stealing a kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower while the lights sparkle around you, eating crepes at café…this image is especially enticing if it means escaping all of the snow that has been plaguing Storrs.

While my Parisian fantasy would have been ideal, it could not have been farther from the events in the novel. “The Paris Wife” is a work of historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s life before his writing career began to soar. Hemingway is only 21 when the novel begins and completely enamored with Hadley Richardson. They meet through a mutual friend and jump into marriage quickly.

For anyone familiar with Hemingway’s relationships, the degradation of his marriage to Hadley won’t come as a surprise. However, I knew nothing about Hemingway’s personal life so I found myself surprised and disappointed the more I read. Although the man could write, he couldn’t do right in his relationships—and not just with Hadley. This is not the book to read if you’re looking for encouragement that love won’t end. The majority of the chapters conclude with a sense of foreboding and dread.

Despite the downward spiral of Hadley and Hemingway’s marriage, the beginning chapters that describe their new relationship are uplifting. It proves that you never know when or how you’ll find that one person who will change your world. This book exemplifies the unknown that comes from meeting people and forming relationships, romantic or platonic. Relationships are important to Hemingway who uses various connections to launch his career. Some people he meets become friends, others critique his work or become business associates and some turn into lovers.

We meet a countless number of people in our lifetime. Only time will tell who will stay in our lives and under what circumstances. It’s those that remain, despite seeing us through our absolute best and worst times, who are true to us. It’s the people who have seen you dressed up but stay by your side when you’re covered in dirt that deserve a place in our hearts. Those are the ones who will continue to care even as time passes. This Valentine’s Day, realize that you might have been wrong about your expectations but that being wrong doesn’t have to mean a bad outcome.


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