This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do believe that if Hemingway was born and raised in this day-and-age, modern social philosophies and therapies could not change or prevent him from his fate. He was a man’s man, an over-correction from the odd psychological abuse of his family. He was a genius, you can hate him for his misogyny, for his affairs, for his wives, for his children. There are a lot of things to hate Hemingway for, but one thing that cannot be denied, he morphed a medium and chronicled some of the most important events in the twentieth century. That cannot de denied or dismissed by who Hemingway was.
And to that fact, the women in Hemingway’s life cannot be denied or dismissed because of Hemingway himself. Which seems to be Paula McLain’s mission with continuing her series on Hemingway’s wives or women, there was the Paris Wife first and Love and Ruin second, from his first wife to his third, Paula McLain opens the door to understanding the women. Although, I can’t really blame her for skipping the second wife, Pauline, I didn’t really like her either.
But to be fair, I thought I knew Hadley’s story. I thought I knew Hadley. The traditional wife. The mother. The sacrificer of everything for the man she loved. The one with an identity interlocked into someone else, not her own. And I was wrong.
This book truly transformed my perception of Hadley. She was heroic to take on a life with such a strength.
To leave her home, her sanctuary, her family, her passions, to leave everything you know and love is the strongest thing a person could ever do. If someone told a musician they had to never play again, not that they couldn’t, not that they lost the ability, that they will never be able to do it as they once did, it’s like walking away from the winning lottery ticket. Not everyone in the world could do it.
Not everyone in the world could hold a boulder over their head to give the love of their life the view they had always wanted, the perception of the pedestal, the glory and belief that Hemingway needed to live. It is told that the air up high is somewhat clearer, cleaner, thinner.
Not everyone could have matched Hemingway’s drinking, although I can stay up with the best of them, Hadley actually stayed up with the true best of them. Hemingway was an international alcoholic, infamous, nearly awarded for such, and Hadley bested him. She bested him in life. With the adventures, from bullfights to skiing, with writing, from support to her own eye, with the communities and circles they ran into, between weaving through the drunk Fitzgeralds or angry politicians.
It’s enlightening. To read about a women history nearly forgot about, that was set aside in the shadow of a great man, The Paris Wife was an incredible journey. And to that fact, it was surprising to see gender roles, although in many ways traditional, were also, in many ways not traditional. Hadley was so much I didn’t know and wouldn’t have known were it not written in a manner as entertaining and interesting as how Paula McLain wrote The Paris Wife.