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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wifecaptures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. 

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will becomeThe Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for. 

An interesting story about Ernest Hemingway's first wife Hadley from her point of view. Lots of well developed characters with many that you had heard of (F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald) and some you thought you knew from books you have read (The Great Gatsby). Character development was done so well that I disliked most of the characters from being self absorbed, narcissistic and extremely unlikeable - including Hadley herself - but I think this was the point.

I actually felt myself angry with Hadley at several points. She kept describing how poor they were, yet they were always going away from Paris on luxury vacations to Spain, South of France and such places, while also having a full time cook, housekeeper and nanny! I want to be that poor! I also disliked her for how often she left her child behind for weeks and months just to keep Ernest happy.

It did make an interesting book group discussion and led a few of the group into wanting to read more of Hemingways novels and some of the other authors who appeared in the book.

Well worth a read

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning

A great writer and a great story. I felt she was a bit fractioned at times in her storytelling. Going in one direction for a short while and then going off on a tangent, leading to another branch of the story and not returning to fully explain the original story line. Some interesting facts and history and the lives and culture of Native American (Indians) although, again, I felt the author went off on a tangent or in too much detail for the story to flow smoothly.

The ending was a "suck in your breath" moment that I did not see coming and while, a good ending somehow did not work fully for the flow of the story, for me.

Still a 4 out of 5 as it was a good enough read and led to a great book group discussion

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets

Ida grew up with Jackson and James—where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes or later drinking on rooftops as teenagers. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit—two brothers and a sister—not drawn from blood, but drawn from a deep need to fill a void in their single parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.

But as the three of them mature and emotions become more complex, Ida and Jackson find themselves more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach.

I read this book almost in one sitting as it just kept me so interested. I would describe it more of a short story than a novel. 

Definitely worth a read and I have only dropped one star because I felt it should have been developed more into a longer novel so was left a bit frustrated at the end, the way I normally do with proper short stories.

A great debut novel by this author.