Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hemingway's life with Hadley. The pitfalls of being larger-than-life

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hemingway/Stein /Fitzgerald generation of American expatriate writers seems to be ready for reexamination by a new generation of readers as we approach 90 odd years of lapsed time since they brought expansive New World eyes to the turmoil of the European inter-war period.

This is a difficult book to evaluate as it occupies that subtle margin that jostles between historical fact and fictional interpretation. The Hemingway story is well documented in other books by the characters themselves, but the author is attempting to add texture to the relationships concerned by giving Hemingway a form as observed by his first wife, the one who supported him through the early years of his career, before he became a living symbol for the larger-than-life American.

The prose is very approachable and the story unfolds gently through a sympathetic but honest narrative.

The big issues that beset H and his ilk loom in the background of an everyday love story that is ultimately brought down by an ego that could not resist pushing at every edge, and testing every parameter of safety, to experience that which lies behind and beyond. These issues of mortality and meaning are the ones most likely to be revisited by the current generation of readers and thinkers as they begin again to question  materialism as it spins out to the emptiness of post-modernist gestures, cliches and pastiches.

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