If someone tore your heart out, crushed it into pieces, and then walked off into a brand new life, would you be able to forgive and remain friends? What if you were Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway, and the ruined relationship in question had in its earlier years brought you great happiness and more adventure than you ever dreamed you could have? Paula McLain’s novel, The Paris Wife,  is a fictionalized but thoroughly well-researched and plausible portrait of Hadley and Ernest and their six years together.
We hear this story mainly through Hadley’s point of view, as she tells of meeting the charismatic writer and falling in love with him in spite of her better judgment. Hadley decides to go with her heart and take on the challenge (and it will be a challenge) and the two are soon married and headed for Paris. The Hemingways’ apartment in the Latin Quarter has no bathroom and they struggle to buy necessities, but they make friends quickly and no one ever seems to run out of liquor.
The vibrant artist haven that was Paris after the Great War, and life on the Left Bank, where cafes serve as hangouts -- and even as offices -- for writers is beautifully drawn. I must admit, though, that I am happy enough to experience this life from the safe distance of nearly a century later -- some realistic descriptions of bullfighting as well as a very different role for women and wives are two reasons. But, still, I loved this book!
Want more of Paris? The following audiobooks feature that beautiful and complicated city in a starring role:
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America -- Not speaking French very well did not keep Benjamin Franklin from capturing the hearts of Parisians (especially the ladies). But here is the story of his very real accomplishments there on behalf of the young United States. This book by Stacy Schiff is on CD (abridged) and eAudio.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris -- Hear about Americans, both famous and obscure, living in Paris in the nineteenth century, and how our country benefited from their experiences there. This book by David McCullough is on CD.
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris -- These nineteen vignettes sound like fiction, but are not. Hear little-known but true stories of Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, Charles Baudelaire, Charles de Gaulle, and others, in the City of Light. This book by Graham Robb is on CD.
A Moveable Feast -- “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” This quote by Ernest Hemingway says it beautifully. This is his own account of his Paris years with Hadley and the others who are dramatized in The Paris Wife. CD