Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Binge Reading - A Moveable Feast, The Paris Wife and Hemingway's Girl

Binge reading.  You all know what I'm referring to, right?  Not just reading any pile of books but getting so caught up in a subject, grabbed by an author or sucked into a series that you can't bear to read anything else till you've gotten your fill.


This is how I felt while reading about Hemingway.  First came A Moveable Feast by the master, himself.  I'd never read A Moveable Feast and probably would have continued to put off the reading for quite a while.  But, my Face to Face book group selected A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain for our September discussion.


I enjoyed both, but found that there were times Hemingway's spare writing was just a bit too minimalist for me.  I wanted more information.  In fact, I spent a lot of time looking up the various artists with whom Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, spent time.  Even Scott Fitzgerald -- whom everyone seems to know a good deal about -- I looked up to compare images of him to Hemingway's physical description (and then kept reading about Scott and Zelda, who are so tragically fascinating that I will probably always be happy to read more).

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was the perfect follow-up to A Moveable Feast, as it describes not only the Paris years, but the entire dating-to-divorce spectrum of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway's relationship from Hadley's point of view and in much greater detail.

I found Hadley a likable woman, intelligent enough to challenge Hemingway, committed enough to continue trying to win her husband back and not abruptly leave him when she found out about his affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, surprisingly well suited to her husband.  Reading from Hadley's POV really rounded out that image of the Paris years, the so-called "Lost Generation" and the personalities of the various artists they spent time with in Paris cafes.

I found a few very interesting links when I was looking up images of The Paris Wife:




In an unusual switch from my normal reading method, I purchased The Paris Wife in e-book form because I don't yet have a library card for my new local library.  It didn't kill me, although I still prefer the sensation of holding a book in my hands, the ability to use paper Post-its and flip to them with ease, the ability to pass a book on to a friend after I finish, and not having to recharge, ever.

The F2F meeting about the two books was a total riot.  One of our members wore a beret and brought a bottle of absinthe, complete with a strainer and sugar cubes.  The group is often lively, particularly when they have strong feelings about a book or character, but they were even more enthusiastic than usual.  Maybe it was the absinthe.  I didn't drink any (I had a 30-mile drive home, so no alcohol for me) but regardless, the discussion was a blast.

Because I knew A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife were on the agenda, I was very excited when I was offered a review copy of Hemingway's Girl by Erica Robuck.  




Hemingway's Girl adds fictional characters to the "Hemingway, wife and friends" reality. This time, the setting is their well-known house in Key West, Florida, during the time that Hemingway was married to second wife Pauline and they had two rambunctious young boys. The year is 1935.

In Hemingway's Girl, Mariella's father has died and her mother Eva is suffering from a paralyzing depression. Mariella's younger sister Lulu often suffers from mysterious high fevers and her other sister Estelle has not spoken since their father's death.  They're much younger than Mariella and only she can feed the family and pay their bills. But, it's becoming more difficult. Jobs are scarce and even the fish aren't selling well.

When a friend of the family helps Mariella get a job working as a maid in the Hemingway home, she is thrilled.  But, Hemingway is a mercurial man, hot-tempered and driven but always flirtatious.  Mariella finds herself drawn to "Papa's" oversized personality and energy. But, she also knows he's married and she's a good girl. When a veteran named Gavin enters her world, Mariella still finds Hemingway magnetic.  But, her feelings for Gavin are different.

Will Mariella fall for a married man or end up with a veteran who still carries emotional scars from war?    When Pauline suspects a building "relationship" between the beautiful "help" and her husband, will Mariella be able to keep her job?

Mariella is a great character.  I loved her strength, morals and work ethic.  She goes to the bar and to boxing matches, gambles to try to win more money and has big dreams.  She's tough but flawed.

Pauline is portrayed as jealous and spiteful.  Pauline was known to have been pretty well-read, so I thought her character could have been a bit more intellectual and less whiny but I don't know when their marriage began to falter.  Hemingway is egotistical and always trying to prove his manhood but has a big heart.

Everyday socializing and parities, Hemingway's fishing trips and boxing, a trip to Bimini, a romance and a hurricane -- a lot happens in Hemingway's Girl.  If you like plot-heavy, romantic, historical fiction, Hemingway's Girl is a perfect escapist read.

My only real complaint, besides Pauline's characterization, was the fact that a large portion of the characters used the same expression. "God" or "Oh, God" was used frequently, but I seldom thought it added any impact or urgency to what the characters had to say; and, the fact that it was used so commonly was, I though, possibly suspect for the time period.  Not that long ago, "You must never take the name of the Lord in vain" was a pretty common refrain.  Otherwise, I thought the book was very well-written and plotted.  I liked the range of characters and thought it was an enjoyable read.

Recommendations:  

All Heartily Recommended!  I enjoyed all three of these books for different reasons.  Hemingway's memories were fascinating, but I wanted a bit more than I got from A Moveable Feast. A Paris Wife nicely filled in the details from those years and expanded on them a bit.  Hemingway's Girl then moved forward to another decade and took an entirely different tack with a fictionalized set of characters who enter a year of his life with second wife Pauline, described in a new location and during a different phase of his writing (including less worry and more arrogance).

I've got a copy of Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure that I'd like to add to my reading schedule; and, I'm quite anxious to read The Sun Also Rises, as it was written during the Paris years.  But, for now, I really need to try to catch up with the backlog of review books I carried from house to house.

Do you ever binge read?  Any particular binge that comes to mind?  I'm curious.  Janet Evanovich's early Stephanie Plum novels were binge reading for me, years back.  I remember reading the first 4, back-to-back.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

24 comments:

  1. The Paris Wife sounds so good and it has been on my TBR list for what seems like forever!

    I love Hemingway too. I haven't read A Movable Feast, but have read The Sun Also Rises. It's my favorite so far actually.

    I don't tend to binge read anymore...I think I've learned to treat the authors/series/genre/topics that I'm tempted to binge on as 'treats' and I take care of some of my neglected TBR's first then go to my 'treat' pile :)

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    1. The Paris Wife is excellent and you'll especially appreciate it having already read The Sun Also Rises.

      I very seldom binge read, myself. It was awfully fun, though. I was having such a terrible reading month because of our move that I really appreciated the opportunity to indulge a little, when something finally grabbed me. I'm so glad my F2F group chose A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife!

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  2. Sheesh! I go on book binges all the time but not with someone as dignified as Hemingway. Sigh!

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    1. LOL Well, remember the Janet Evanovich. I do occasionally go on series binges, like you do. That's always fun. :)

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  3. I dont think I've binged read in a long time but I think the last time I did also involved Hemingway. I read: Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms back to back. I liked them all. Also once binged on Jack Kerouac with On the Road, Dharma Bums & a biography or two. Must (have been) a male men's world once. I liked your post a lot comparing all three books, great. I must say Moveable Feast is a delight! But I havent read Paris Wife yet -- it's on my agenda. Cheers http://www.thecuecard.com/

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    1. Wow! Those are some seriously erudite reading binges! I'm impressed!

      Thanks! I had an awful lot of fun with this little binge. I really enjoyed all three books very, very much. I hope you get to read The Paris Wife soon!

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  4. these all sound fantastic and none of them are books I would've read before reading this post! I can be a total binge reader sometimes...except for when I go through phases like now when I don't read anything :/ But when I find a subject really interesting, yeah...I tend to want to stay on that topic. Pick up really similar books. Especially with audiobooks I find!

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    1. Aw, Chris, you're not reading, again? I'm sorry. That totally sucks.

      But, yeah . . . so fun to binge read. Hemingway was/is a fun guy to binge on. I'm dying to read more of his stuff -- and the Michael Palin book. Hmm. Maybe I'll just go ahead and peek into the Palin.

      I hope you find something wondrous to read, soon!!!!

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  5. I read 2 of these this summer and they really compliment each other. I read The Paris Wife first, and then really was able to appreciate the Hemingway. Next is to try a fiction by Hemingway.

    That new book, Hemingway's Girl looks fabulous! I'd love to read a book wiht Pauline's life - was it worth getting him after all?

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    1. I can see how reading them in either order would work equally well. Having read the Hemingway first, I was happy to read the larger story but I might have followed A Moveable Feast better if I'd read The Paris Wife, first. At any rate, both made me want to read more.

      Hemingway's Girl is very good. I should have mentioned that the fictional part is dominant. But, you do get a feel for what Pauline thought about breaking up a marriage. I wonder if the author's conclusions were correct. It makes sense to me that Pauline might have always been worried and jealous of other women Hemingway gave attention because she obviously knew he was willing to break his marital vows if he felt like it.

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  6. I have always wanted to really dig into Hemingway, but he is such a terse writer, and I always get the feeling that he is catering to a male audience. I read one of his short stories in high school. I think it was called The White Elephant, though I can't be sure. I do admire your taking on all three of these books in such a short space of time, and often my reading has been aimed at one particular subject like this as well. Great reviews today! I do have The Paris Wife, and should make time to read it!

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    1. You should read The Paris Wife if you're interested in Hemingway but not thrilled with his writing style. He was definitely a minimalist. Sometimes I like that, sometimes I feel like diving into more descriptive writing.

      It was fun reading all three! I decided to go ahead and add Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure to the mix. This morning, I caught Isabel chewing up the cover. OH, NO!!! She also chewed up the cover of Telegraph Avenue. I took her to the living room and showed her the little mint chew toy she's supposed to use when she feels like noshing. She actually loves it but forgets about it, I guess.

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  7. We're going to be doing A PARIS WIFE in book club soon. I can't believe I haven't read it yet.

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    1. I hope yours is as fun as mine was, Amy! My group can get really wound up when they enjoy their reading and the two books provided a lot of discussion fodder.

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  8. What a great post! I read A Moveable Feast last year and thought it was fascinating. I knew most of the characters he described historically but it was interesting to see his perspective. Mostly I thought he kind of trashed talked a lot. I started reading The Paris Wife and was loving it but something interrupted it and I NEED to get back to it. For some reason the one thing that stuck out for me during AMF was that they used the cat...the CAT!...as a baby sitter. What?? I've been dying to read Hemingway's Girl too and it's been getting great reviews. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! I'd already forgotten about the cat. I was quite focused on the artists and getting to know those I wasn't familiar with, but I remember reading that really happened. Wild, eh? Or . . . you know . . . scary-bad parenting. Hemingway's Girl is fun but do remember that the fictional story dominates. Still, it's a really good book, very well plotted in my humble opinion. Hope you love it when you get around to reading!

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  9. I enjoyed your post! I have made a 'project' of reading some books together but not quite like what you describe here.

    And I couldn't stand The Paris Wife. I thought her insufferable. The book was OK, but the character annoyed me.

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    1. I need more "projects" like this, I think. I decided I couldn't stand looking at Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure without opening it, so I'm slowly working on that one, now. Somewhere, I have Palin's novel, Hemingway's Chair, but I don't imagine I'll see that for a while. :)

      I can see why you might have found Hadley annoying. I was expecting her to be a little more wild and fun-loving, just from how Hemingway described her in A Moveable Feast, but she did come off as a bit whiny, at first. I chalked it up to loneliness.

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  10. OK, how did I not know what The Paris Wife was about until now??!! I feel like total bonehead!!! I loved A Moveable Feast when I read it many years ago and definitely need to re-read.

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    1. LOL I read some reviews and promptly forgot what it was about! So, we're on equal boneheaded terms, here. If you loved A Moveable Feast, I definitely recommend pairing the two together when you go for a re-read.

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  11. I loved A Moveable Feast...and then I saw that Woody Allen movie set in Paris (I am SO bad with titles) and it really brought some of the characters to life. Especially Hemingway...he was hilarious in the movie, since he talked just like he wrote.

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    1. I just looked it up . . . Midnight in Paris. Hemingway was by far my favorite character because of that. He had me laughing my socks off. I'm convinced I need to own the movie. A Moveable Feast is definitely a new Hemingway favorite.

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  12. I want to read all three of these books and will save your post for future reference. I think I've only read one book by Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) and that was over 30 years ago. I'd say I'm due. ;) So, I should read The Paris Wife first, though, right? Then A Moveable Feast followed by Hemingway's Girl? I saw Midnight in Paris and thought it was great.

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    1. I've read mostly short stories, apart from A Moveable Feast and, um . . . There's an unfinished Hemingway that I read. Islands in the Stream? It started out like gangbusters and went dramatically downhill. It was only later on that I found out why. Oops, not a complete book. Why they published it that way is beyond me. I guess because his name sells books.

      I think you can read A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife in either order, actually. I enjoyed reading The Paris Wife after because it filled out and explained some of what I'd read. It might help make better sense of A Moveable Feast as you read it, if you've already read The Paris Wife, though. Your call. Hemingway's Girl is best saved till last and do remember that the fictional storyline is dominant.

      I loved Midnight in Paris, too. The Hemingway character was hilarious.

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