The Paris Wife: Chapters 26 Through 35


Hi, Bookies:

This quarter of the book sees the beginning of the end for Hem and Hadley, sadly. The couple moves to Toronto to have their baby. Their plan is to stay a year while Ernest makes some money editing at the Star. He, of course, locks horns with his boss and ultimately decides he needs to be writing…in Paris. So four months later, the two—and their son, affectionately nicknamed Bumby—find themselves in Paris again. Hadley realizes that she will always be subjected to Ernest’s whims, and that his life will always come first. This is a position, old-fashioned as it may be, that she doesn’t mind. But through Ernest’s work in Paris, she meets Harold Loeb and his girlfriend, Kitty, who encourage her to be more modern and independent. So she starts practicing her piano again. She finally has something that is just hers.

Meanwhile, Ernest enjoys his first critical literary success, and begins hitting the cafe scene hard, meeting fabulous dilettantes like Duff Twysden—on whom Ernest develops a mad crush. Hadley realizes that her husband has developed a wandering eye, and, almost as compensation, Ernest whisks her off to Austria to ski.

While in Austria, the pair gets news that two publishers want to publish In Our Time, Hem’s novel. They go back to Paris to celebrate—and in the weeks that follow, Hadley begins bonding with her more modern and “liberated” friends Kitty and Pauline, an American friend of Kitty’s who is working as an editor at Vogue. At first Ernest doesn’t like these women and their independent ways, but he grows to embrace Pauline.

The couple, along with their circle of Paris friends, heads to Pamplona for the bullfights again—it is this trip to Spain that eventually inspires The Sun Also Rises (Duff being the inspiration for Brett, Hem becoming Jake Barnes). A Hadley-like character doesn’t appear in the book. Ernest also writes The Torrents of Spring in this time. The book is a satire of the writer Sherwood Anderson (who shares Hem’s publisher). Hadley and Hem’s friends, including most notably Gertrude Stein, disapprove of the book, finding it mean. But Pauline becomes the book’s biggest champion…winning her Hem’s friendship and devotion and helping to further distance him from his wife.

My favorite quote from this section is from Kitty, who tells Hadley, “Blaming marriage doesn’t solve it. As soon as you love someone, you’re bound up with them. It’s unavoidable unless you swear off love.” In other words, marriage may be tough but not falling in love is worse. I always wonder if I had lived in a certain era, would I have behaved the way people from that era behaved—would I have been a Hadley or a Kitty or Pauline? Who do you relate to?

Enjoy the end of the book. After we are done reading, the author, Paula McLain, will answer any questions you have for her!

—Didi

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