Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Paris Wife: Reading and Wondering, Part I

Hemingway:  the man, the myth, the power.  I have always been fascinated by his mystique, but I have given very little thought to the women who shaped him, four wives and one pretty nurse.  The Paris Wife focuses on Hadley Richardson who was Hemingway's first wife and the one during the Paris Years, and this example of historical fiction is leaving me with a hollow feeling.  To be honest, I can only read it in bits and pieces.  Maybe because I know how it ends, adultery and divorce.  

I know somewhere there will be a sense of female empowerment.  You can see where it is shaping, and in this age, I cannot imagine publishing a book about a doormat; however, the author is now showing how overwhelming Hemingway was in life and how dependent Hadley must have been.  She was emotionally attached to her dysfunctional family, never fully comprehending her father's suicide and her larger than life mother.  The fictional Hadley never felt the desire to live until she encountered the enigma of Hemingway, a man several years her junior. She was emotionally stunted and years younger in experience, so her happiness was hinged on a man who wasn't able fully to love without fear.  He left before his women could.  

At this point in the book, I just want to slap her.  As Cher says so elegantly in Moonstruck, "Snap out of it!"
Each step is a process, and we are to experience life with her, but at this certain point, I am just thankful not to be married to writer in Paris during the 20s and dealing with his emotional issues.  Greek tragedy is based on catharsis, and this book, in a way, is cathartic.  Her obsession is allowing  me to clear my own mind of the relationship garbage that seems to creep in and makes me doubt myself.  In that sense, this is a good book for me, right now, but if only I could yell at her to stop and regroup.  Don't build your life around one person, Hadley. People are fallible, and they will break your heart if you only live for the myth you create in your own mind. She can't hear me.  She is too torn between being the Victorian child or the "modern" woman in Paris.  She thought she could save him.  Poor Hadley, because thanks to Oprah, we know he is the only one who can save himself.  

Maybe this is why I haven't made a life commitment since my divorce until recently.  Love is scary and dangerous.  It is scary to lose yourself into one person.  It is even worse to lose yourself in the ideas of  the life you want but not fully realized.  You become a shell or ghost; a shade just going through the motions.  Your home is filled with the shadows of the possibilities of life but nobody is fully living.  Love shouldn't turn you into less than what you really are.

So far, Hadley is merely a shade mirroring the life being lived by Hemingway.  Hopefully, soon the pages will reveal a stronger voice and one worth hearing.  

To be continued...

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