For the last couple of week, I’ve been reading Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto. It’s the true story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. I am a massive fan of Hemingway’s writing and was very intrigued to learn more about his first wife, but what started out as an interest turned into a full blown love. This is one of my absolute favorite books I’ve read this year and not just because the story is so good, but because it was written with such sympathy and insight.
One of the most interested things I learned reading this book was that Hadley was such an inspiration in Hemingway’s writing. The more you learn about Hadley, the more you see her in some of his most famous female characters. In so many ways, Hadley represented the perfect woman to Hemingway- her naturalness, her strength of character, and her complete devotion to him. The life they created together was so beautiful, so full of love and joy. When they were together, it seemed as if they were one person instead of two and Hemingway drew extensively from that to create some of his most romantic couples. Hadley not only inspired him, she encouraged his writing and supported them both financially for the first years of their marriage. She never minded being poor, as long as Hemingway was writing, and write Hemingway did. Some of his best work, and certainly the work that defined his voice, was written while he was married to Hadley.
Of course, we all know how things ended between them. Hemingway fell in love with another woman, cheated on Hadley, and then left her and their son Bumby (Jack). It was very difficult for me to read these parts. Not only because I felt heartbroken for Hadley (she loved him through all of it), but also because it’s very difficult to reconcile the disdain you feel for one of your writing icons actions with the brilliance of their work. At some points, I never wanted to read Hemingway again (That would show him!). But, that’s certainly not what Hadley would want. She always loved him and supported him, even after their divorce, and for his part, Hemingway always regretted leaving Hadley and if you have read A Moveable Feast, it’s obvious how much he loved and idolized Hadley as well.
This book is amazing. Honestly, it was so illuminating to learn more about Hadley and it gave me so much more insight into Hemingway’s writing. It is written beautifully and it tells a pretty amazing story. Paris in the 20′s y’all. Paris in the 20′s with the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and the Hemingways. Spectacular read.
What are you kids reading?