She was seven years his senior when they met through a friend in 1920s Chicago, but even at 21, a young Ernest Hemingway was instantly drawn to Ms. Hadley Richardson of St. Louis. So much so, he became obsessed and asked for her hand, claiming years later he'd known all along "she was the girl I was going to marry."
Author Paula McClain drew the material in her novel heavily from personal letters, biographical and firsthand accounts from sources close within the Hemingways' social circles from this time, known later as Hemingway's 'Paris Years,' when he and Hadley crossed the seas as newlyweds and settled into a life in the French capital. Here, the future Nobel Prize winner would struggle to launch his writing career before becoming accepted by the Paris literary elite, many of them iconic American and British writers such as Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein (and a young Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald later on), who in turn serve as friends and mentors helping connect Hemingway with the right sources to promote his work.
Most fascinating is perhaps the McClain's juxtapositions of Paris and all its temptations and glitz during the 20s and that of the Hemingways' strong, but often shaky affection for one another. For Hadley, between Ernest's quest to achieve great work with his writing and the need to support a young wife and son as a foreign correspondent coupled with many nights of hard-core drinking and travels with free-spirited company, she finds the hub and life in Paris relentless as it tests the strength of her character and determination to support her husband's success.
For Ernest, Paris life will test his loyalty to Hadley as well, though the road to success for the Hemingways will ultimately come with certain sacrifices, some of them positively heartbreaking to recall.
NOIR's TWO CENTS: True and historically inspired events, people and places are told through rich narrative, rendering accounts that are truly touching, and bittersweet.