The Paris Wife: Chapters 36 Through the Epilogue

Hi, Bookies:

The final section of the book opens with Hadley and Bumby vacationing in Schruns, while Ernest travels to New York City to meet with his publisher—among other things, he gets a hefty advance for The Sun Also Rises. When he gets back, he encourages Hadley to take a trip to the Loire Valley with her friends Pauline and Ginny. It is during this trip that Hadley figures out that Ernest and Pauline have taken up with each other. Ernest thinks—and tries to convince Hadley of it—that he can be married and have Pauline as a lover on the side, but this hurts Hadley too much to agree to. In her pain, she cancels the piano performance she was planning to give and Ernest goes to Madrid. Hadley stays back in Paris with Bumby, who has developed a nasty cough.

A few weeks later, everyone meets up in Antibes (on the French Riviera) at the home of Sara and Gerald Murphy. It is discovered that Bumby has had whooping cough all along—and Sara Murphy quarantines Hadley and the baby so that they do not get anyone else ill. In a way, Hadley and Bumby have it best, as everyone who is staying at the Murphys’ home ends up quarreling. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (who are also there; Scott would actually later base the main characters in Tender Is the Night on the Murphys) have a tense time as Zelda feels threatened by Sara’s beauty; she doesn’t get along with Ernest, and she ultimately takes a risky cliff dive at night, which seems somewhat suicidal. Pauline ends up joining the dysfunctional group—and completely closing in on Ernest. Both Ernest and Hadley express, independently, how easy it would be to take their own lives rather than suffer through the torture of their love triangle. Still, the three head on to Pamplona, where the two-wives charade keeps up. Finally Hadley gives Ernest an ultimatum: Don’t see Pauline for 100 days and if, at the end of this time, you still love her, then I will grant you a divorce.

With Pauline out of the picture, Hadley and Ernest get along—for a while, anyway. They make love; and he dedicates The Sun Also Rises to her and Bumby. But during the 100 days, Hadley travels with Kitty and realizes that, despite wedding vows, you stay committed to someone only as long as the love lasts. And their love had died. So she and Ernest decide to split up, and she moves first to New York, then to California with Bumby. Ernest goes on to marry Pauline (with whom he will have two children); but, of course, eventually he leaves Pauline, too, and by the time he dies (at his own hand), he has had four wives—and countless lovers.

The last time Hadley hears from Ernest is in 1961. He calls her and basically admits to having messed things up. But I couldn’t help but remember that, soon after they decided to split up, Ernest told Hadley: “No one you love is ever truly lost.” Truer words could not be spoken.

I enjoyed this book immensely. And as a longtime lover of Hemingway’s work, I appreciated the view into his personal life (fictionalized as it may have been). I am eager to hear what you all think. To those of you who love Hem as much as I do, I wonder: Do you still? Or did his treatment of Hadley knock him down a peg in your mind?

Don’t forget: Author Paula McLain will answer questions about the book; just post them below by next Thursday, September 1. Here are mine:

• How many years did you spend researching Ernest Hemingway’s life? And what kind of research did you do to get inside Hadley’s mind-set?

• How accurate is the dialogue between Ernest and Hadley?

• Did any of the Hemingways collaborate with you or contact you after the book was published?

• What made you so interested in Ernest and Hadley?

• Between the success of your book and Midnight in Paris, it seems as if Hemingway is having “a moment.” Hemingway women are currently on the cover of Town & Country’s September issue. What makes him and his family so compelling—and timeless?

Happy discussing! 

—Didi

COMMENTS