A fictional imagining of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage to Hadley Richardson told from her point of view. The couple meet in Chicago, marry fairly quickly thereafter and then move to Paris where they live through the majority of their short marriage.
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Both of the central characters of this book are difficult to take in different ways. The image this book gave me of Hemingway was of a selfish, chauvinist, mentally unstable jerk. And I guess since I should try to look for something positive he could be pretty darn witty. The narrator, Hadley, doesn't come out of it quite so badly but she comes across as a bloodless, needy doormat. You can see where a marriage between those two will go. And from the outside its brutal to watch, and as much as I hated the way Hadley let herself be stepped on, it was probably pretty true to life. The problem is that I feel like I should have felt more sympathy at leastfor Hadley and I don't know if it's the author's fault or my fault that all I really felt was contempt.
I was also irritated by the constant harping on their level of poverty while they seemed to do nothing but vacation and were able to afford a cook/nanny. They'd leave their child for weeks on end while they sunbathed or watched bull fights in Spain. It didn't jive and because Hadley was our narrator it undercut her character and made her seem ridiculous - complaining about money while they spend 3 months skiing in Austria. I also got annoyed by all the drinking and nicknames and "I am an artiste therefore I have license to be an ass" that was pervasive throughout the book.
Despite all that griping it was in the end a pretty genuine story of a doomed marriage between two flawed people. Who were young and naive and romantic and didn't really know what they were getting into. After all we can't always help who we love, and while from the outside its hard to understand what Hadley sees in Heminway he probably was a force to be reckoned with in person. McLain brings up a point at the end that Hemingway felt that throughout his childhood his domineering mother who he initially adored betrayed him and that's why he could never truly give all of himself to someone. He couldn't trust. This was interesting but really didn't come out in her depiction of Hemingway. He just seemed like an ass. And that in the end is why it only got 3 stars from me - by midway through it was compulsively readable and the settings were evocative but there was just something missing with the character portrayal that kept me from loving the book.