Papa Can You Hear Me?

First of all, many thanks to everyone for your kind comments in my previous post. The family gave Aunt Bobbie a send-off she would have loved. It was a day filled with funny stories and tributes to her life. So, thank you again.

I ended up taking a longer-than-planned blogging hiatus because I’ve been buried in one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

The Paris Wife

I’ve been consumed by “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. Even though we all know how it ends (the description itself says it’s about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Spoiler alert! When something says “first,” it implies there will be more!), it’s an engrossing look at Paris in the 1920s. My obsession reached such a fever peak over the weekend that I even rented a movie that focuses on the same period.

Midnight in Paris

I am now obsessed with learning more and more about the Lost Generation. All of the characters I was reading about in “The Paris Wife” — Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and, of course, Hemingway himself — come to life in “Midnight in Paris.” I’m not a big Owen Wilson fan but he actually works in the movie. And Michael Sheen is brilliant.

But back to “The Paris Wife,” I can’t recommend this book enough. Even if you don’t consider yourself a Hemingway fan, you’ll be drawn into this story of first loves, the struggles of marriage and the things (women, alcohol, money, success, jealousy) that tear friendships and marriages apart. Plus, it’s a pretty great history of one of the most creatively relevant times in modern history — Paris in the ’20s.

This isn’t my first foray into a Hemingway obsession. As you know, Key West is one of our favorite spots in the world and the stories and mythology surrounding Papa in the Conch Republic are numerous, to say the least. DadJovi and I are such Hemingway devotees that we even sent our bridal party copies of “To Have and Have Not” when we asked them to be in our wedding (he wrote it in Key West) and we included a reading from a Hemingway book during our wedding ceremony (which is interesting because I can’t remember what book it’s from and DadJovi is telling me as I’m writing this that he has no recollection of my brother even reading anything during the ceremony. Yup, that day is seared into our memories, huh? Do you see why I blog now? I have NO MEMORY of anything anymore. My brain is mush).

Also, years ago, on a particularly long road trip (Maine, maybe?) we listened to an audiobook of “Running With the Bulls,” written by Hemingway’s secretary and future daughter-in-law. Her husband (Hemingway’s youngest son) eventually became a transgendered woman who underwent gender reassignment surgery. Just a little fun fact for you!

Moving along. Now that I’ve finished “The Paris Wife,” I’ve taken the next logical step — spending hours on Wikipedia and other sites backing up what I read and going down the rabbit hole of the Hemingway family.

The Hemingway familyHadley, Ernest and Bumby Hemingway, Austria, 1926. Hooray for Wikimedia Commons!

I’m also thrilled that our bookshelf includes most of Hemingway’s books. “The Paris Wife” deals extensively with Hemingway writing “The Sun Also Rises,” so I think that is next on my reading list, followed by “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway’s autobiography about his and Hadley’s (aka the Paris wife) time in Paris.

The book is technically historical fiction, but I know the author was very careful to follow the timeline of the Hemingways’ life, including where they lived, the friends they spent time with, the highs and lows of Hemingway’s career and more. The next time you want to be transported to another time and place, check out “The Paris Wife” and “Midnight in Paris.” They really should release them as a companion set!

Do you go on streaks with your entertainment, too? Once we start watching a show or a topic that gets us excited, we tend to go on tears and consume entire series or everything related to it. And seriously, does anyone else find Owen Wilson’s nose completely distracting? It’s all I think about every time he’s on camera.


    • says

      I think you’ll really like it. It’s much funnier than I was anticipating, which shouldn’t have surprised me since it’s a Woody Allen script. But if you have any affection for Paris, you’ll love it. The cinematography is gorgeous!

    • says

      Yeah, the Owen Wilson factor is a bit painful. But the rest of the cast is great. And it is amusing how much crossover from the book to the movie there is — both sides did their research. There’s a particularly funny scene with Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds that reflects perfectly the tense relationship described in the book. I think I would have liked the movie without having first read “The Paris Wife,” but watching it after reading the movie really made me enjoy it more. I think you’ll like it! Besides, the scenery is gorgeous. It’s a big love letter to Paris from Woody Allen.

    • says

      Oh, I forgot to say in that comment that I actually thought of you during the movie. There’s a lot in it about the process of writing. In fact, that’s the focus of the whole movie. So I think you’ll really love all of that!

  1. says

    That book is on my list! I just finished Violets of March (it was OK) and now I’m going to read Room (seriously dreading it). Good to hear it’s great read!

    I find Owen Wilson’s voice distracting. Ha ha. For that reason, and many others Lightning McQueen is NOT my favorite Pixar character (although Mater is worse).

  2. says

    That book sounds excellent! I’ve not read a lot of Hemingway, but we have seen where he used to live in San Juan, and I think anything from the ’20s is fascinating. It’s always been one of those eras to which I’d go if I could travel back in time. I’ll have to load it up onto my Kindle for sure. And yes! Owen Wilson’s nose ALWAYS bugs me. It’s definitely all I end up focusing on when I see him onscreen.

  3. says

    You will love A Moveable Feast! Next, you should plan a trip to Paris “in Papa’s footsteps”… I can help you plan it! (we did that in high school and my girlfriend and I somehow convinced her dad that we NEEDED to go have tea at the Ritz for research purposes, it was awesome!)


  1. […] I went into this knowing NOTHING about Ernest Hemingway – except that he killed himself, he was an alcoholic, he lived in Key West, and had cats with 6 toes. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read anything by him in full (I think we parts of The Sun Also Rises in high school, but it obviously did not make an impression on me). After this book, I think I might have to (at the very least – I want to read A Moveable Feast). I feel like this book did a great job of humanizing Hemingway – and telling a simple love story gone wrong. It was QUITE a time period to live in Paris and it was captured very well in this book. The story is nothing you couldn’t read on Wikipedia about Hadley Richardson’s life – but the writing really brings these characters to life. While the events were real, the dialogue is fictional and it doesn’t feel like it. This isn’t an “OMG you have to read this book” stunner, but it is a lovely story about a woman who inspired and helped define one of America’s greatest authors. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own, so I’m very glad that Jackie suggested it! (Check out her review too!) […]

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