Thursday, March 8, 2012
211. the PARIS WIFE
The Book Jacket Blurb:
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness -- until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group -- the fabled "Lost Generation" -- that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of her life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage -- a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they fought for.
What Hooked Me:
To what ends should a wife fight for her marriage, to stay for better or for worse? Hadley fought to the worse, through intense emotional turmoil with her egotistical creative genius of a husband. But as much as she frustrated me, her story also intrigued me, and the telling gently nudged me to actually understand and respect this ardent love for this complicated and broken man. Ernest Hemingway's struggles as a writer during his early years, Paris in the 1920's and Spain's famous bullfights added to the compelling background of this obviously well-researched novel.
'Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris. The world had ended once already and could again at any moment. The war had come and changed us by happening when everyone said it couldn't.'(opening lines)
'There was no back home anymore, not in the essential way, and that was part of Paris, too. Why we couldn't stop drinking or talking or kissing the wrong people no matter what it ruined. Some of us had looked in the faces of the dead and tried not to remember anything in particular. Ernest was one of these.'(Prologue, first page)
'To marry was to say you believed in the future and in the past, too -- that history and tradition and hope could stay knit together to hold you up.'(xi)
'I don't know how long we danced that night, back and forth across the living room in a long slow ellipse. Every time the recording ended, Ernest shuffled away from me briefly to start it again. Back in my arms, he buried his face in my neck, his hands clasped low on my back. Three minutes of magic suspended and restrung. Maybe happiness was an hourglass already running out, the grains tipping, sifting past each other. Maybe it was a state of mind -- as Nora Bayes insisted -- a country you could sculpt out of air and then dance into.'(47)
'"I'd love to look like you." I said. "I'd love to be you."
I'd never said anything truer. I would gladly have climbed out of my skin into his that night, because I believed that was what love meant. Hadn't I just felt us collapsing into one another, until there was no difference between us?
It would be the hardest lesson of my marriage, discovering the flaw in this thinking. I couldn't reach into every part of Ernest and he didn't want me to. He needed me to make him feel safe and backed up, yes, the same way I needed him. But he also liked that he could disappear into his work, away from me. And return when he wanted to.'(59)
'How unbelievably naive we both were that night. We clung hard to each other, making vows we couldn't keep and should never have spoken aloud. That's how love is sometimes. I already loved him more that I'd ever loved anything or anyone. I knew he needed me absolutely, and I wanted him to go on needing me forever.'(70)
'Was my happiness so completely tied to him now that I could only feel like myself when he was near? '(92)
'It gave me a sharp kind of sadness to think that no matter how much I loved him and tried to put him back together again, he might stay broken forever.'(100)
'It's one of the things war does to you. Everything you see works to replace moments and people from your life before, until you can't remember why any of it mattered. It doesn't help if you're not a soldier. The effect is the same.'(118-119)
'It was shockingly unmodern -- and likely naive, too -- but I did believe any sacrifices and difficulties in our life were worth it for Ernest's career. It was why we'd come to Paris after all.'(184)
"Sometimes I wish we could rub out all of our mistakes and start fresh, from the beginning," I said, "And sometimes I think there isn't anything to us but our mistakes.'(220)
'Ernest's eyes, as he spoke, were suddenly nearly as alive as Ordonez's cape. The intensity bubbled up from a deep place in him and came into his face and his throat, and I saw the way he was connected to Ordonez and the bullfight, and to life as it was happening, and I knew that I could hate him all I wanted for the way he was hurting me, but I couldn't ever stop loving him, absolutely, for what he was.'(221)
'The very rich only admire themselves.'(250)
'... love is love. It makes you do terribly stupid things.'(263)
'He didn't know how love managed to be a garden one moment and war the next. He was at war now, his loyalty tested at every turn. And the way it had been, the aching and delirious happiness of being newly in love, had passed out of his reach until he wasn't certain he'd ever had it. Now, there were only lies and compromises.'(276)
'You make your life with someone and you love that person and you think it's enough. But it's never enough, is it?'(291)
'Ernest once told me that the word paradise was a Persian word that meant "walled garden." I knew then that he understood how necessary the promises we made to each other were to our happiness. You couldn't have real freedom unless you knew where the walls were and tended them. We could lean on the walls because they existed; they existed because we leaned on them.'(296)
'People belong to each other only as long as they both believe.'(297)
'Can you love someone too much?'(312)
a Ballantine Books Hardcover Edition
Check out Melissa @ the Avid Reader's Musing's thoughts on this book HERE.