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Hadley Hemingway Lives in The Paris Wife

29 Feb

After finishing Unbroken, I was hungry for another good book and didn’t want to take a gamble on the bookshelves. So I contacted my Bostonian Bookophile, who of course had a fount of suggestions. When The Paris Wife was among them, I knew it would be my next book, as I’d already had my eye on it for a while. And it was beautiful.

Paula McLain found a way to bring the first of Hemingway’s four wives back to life, giving her a beautiful, lyrical, melancholy voice. The story of a young woman who became intricately entwined with the budding career of one of America’s greatest literary talents only to see her marriage swallowed by the chaotic life of 1920’s bohemian Paris. Most of The Paris Wife is written as Hadley’s interior monologue, peppered with cut-scenes of Hemingway’s betrayals.

hadley and earnest hemingway, 1920. photo from kramblings

When inside Hadley’s head, her voice is rich, fluid, lyrical. When McLain moves into dialogue between Ernest and Hadley it’s as succinct and poignant as the dialogue Hemingway was known for. McLain makes the tragedy of broken promises and failed expectations lovely, and you can almost taste the bitterness of Hadley’s longing as she finds and loses the love of her life. Though I’m not much for sad endings, this book is supremely worth the read.

I underlined much of this book, as I’m a sucker for a clever turn of phrase. Here’s one of my favorite bits:

If you looked at the bicycles one way, they looked very solid, like sculpture, with afternoon light glinting cleanly off the chrome handlebars–one, two, three, all in a row. If you looked at them another way, you could see just how thin each kickstand was under the weight of the heavy frame, and how they were poised to fall like dominoes or the skeletons of elephants or like love itself. But when I noticed this, I kept it to myself because that, too, was part of the unwritten contract.

I really like 101 Book’s habit of including the first line of each book he reads in his review, so I’d like to do the same, with my own twist:

Opening line (Prologue): Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.

Opening line (Chapter 1): The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, “It’s possible I’m too drunk to judge, but you might have something there.”

Closing lines (Main book): He nodded yes, and I folded Ernest’s letter, creasing and squaring the edges until it seemed sturdy. I gave it to Bumby and together we waded out into the surf and let the boat go. It bobbed and dipped, words on water, and when the waves gradually took it, I only cried a very little, and then it was gone.

Closing lines (Epilogue): There was nothing Paul could possibly do for me except let me go – back to Paris and Pamplona and San Sebastian, back to Chicago when I was Hadley Richardson, a girl stepping off a train about to meet the man who would change her life. That girl, that impossibly lucky girl, needed nothing.


22 Feb

Just wanted to say a quick hello to any APW readers who have made their way over. Welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Rarely do I read a book that leaves me speechless. I just finished Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, the epic novel about WWII POW’s, centered around the life of Louis Zamperini. I’m not much for historical novels, much less biographies, but since I was home sick over a three-day weekend, I started it thinking it would be a great way to pass the time and enjoyed the chapters on Louis’ childhood and olympic dreams in between catching up on shows with my Hubbs. Then I made the mistake of starting the section where their plane went down just before bed. At 3:36 am I put the book down with the war over and Louis not yet having met his love. I literally couldn’t stop reading until the POW’s were home safe.

There really are no words to describe this book. I could go on about the struggle, the triumph of the human spirit, humanity’s capacity for great acts of cruelty and even greater acts of forgiveness, but it all sounds hollow to my ears. Instead I’ll relay the recommendation that prompted me to pick up the book in the first place. Last month my therapist came to speak at an event at our church about confidence. During her talk she remembered hearing Loius Zamperini speak and being captivated by the man’s wit, humility, and deep, abiding faith. When talking about Unbroken, the woman who has recommended more books to me than I can name and always had a new book on her desk when I saw her said it may be the best book she’s ever read. And I agree.

We’re living in a time where we don’t go to war, but take ‘military action.’ We’re coming up on a time when the last survivors of major wars will no longer be with us.

Robert Penn Warren once said: “history cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”

In junior high, my school had a long-standing arrangement with a local married couple, the Rosenburgs, who came in once a year to talk to the seventh and eighth graders about surviving the Holocaust. Both were Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Mrs. Rosenburg spoke to the seventh graders, having spent only a little while in one of the ‘softer’ camps, while Mr. Rosenburg spoke to the eighth grade students about his almost two years in the camps and being convinced that he would die there, like the rest of his family before him. At the end of his imprisonment he was told that he would be executed in two days time. That was the day the Nazis surrendered. They came to talk to us so that we might understand the importance of remembering the past so that we can choose a better future. Even us self-centered kids knew that we were experiencing something important, and I remember thinking that my children would never have the experience of hearing these stories firsthand. It’s for this reason I am deeply grateful to Laura Hillenbrand for immortalizing a story that should not be forgotten.

As different areas of Japan were named in the book, I thought about how different the country looks now from the way it was described in WWII. Just sixty-seven years later. A lifetime to us, but a tiny drop in the bucket that makes up humanity’s history. As I read about the atrocities visited on Allied POW’s in Japan, I felt a strong burden to remember that the horror went both ways. I’ve visited ground zero at Hiroshima twice. Once in 2001, and again in 2008 with A. If it were only me in Japan that second time, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to visit the memorial or walk through the museum again. But I firmly believe that it’s something that every American lucky enough to visit that beautiful country should experience, so I took A. He was as overwhelmed, as overcome as I had been at seventeen. I remember the first time I walked through the museum at the Peace Plaza; I was pretty ignorant about the war. I knew we hadn’t started it, but that we had been the ones to end it. Seeing how we ended it was startling, shocking, appalling. I was afraid that every Japanese person around me was looking at us touring Americans and blaming us for what happened. But as I walked through, reading accounts of the war and the bomb that ended it all, I was struck by the common theme that was expressed over and over again on those walls – one of contrition, forgiveness, and a desire for abiding peace.

hiroshima peace memorial park in 2008. you can see the a-bomb dome in the distance through the memorial cenotaph.

War is ugly, no matter what side you are on. It’s so cheesy now, but a lyric from the musical Rent has stuck with me since the first time I heard it:

“The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”

The Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, where a bombed-out building still stands at ground zero, is a testament to the destructive nature of war. Unbroken tells the stories of lives that were destroyed, families ripped apart, and futures stolen by war.  We truly live in a broken world, one I believe will not be redeemed until Christ comes to bring as all home, but I pray that war may be avoided and that stories like Louis Zamperini’s and the Rosenburgs are among the last of their kind.

As Machiavelli said, “whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”

And so we read, we listen, we remember. And we move forward.

Read the book. You won’t regret it.

Friday Five – Color Cures the Winter Blues

17 Feb

I love nail polish. I mean, I LOVE nail polish! You know that statistic that says in times of crisis lipstick sales go up because women want a little bit on inexpensive luxury? Well, I nix the lipstick and head to the nail isle instead. Just so’s you know how much love I’m talking about, here’s a peek into my nail polish drawer:

obsessed much? why yes, yes i am.

There’s something that’s so refreshing about painting my nails. I match the color to my mood – if I need a pick me up I go bright. If I’m feeling saucy and mysterious I go dark. If I’m feeling clean and pure, polished, I go with a neutral, either shimmer or gloss. A laughs at me because I’ll go for months without painting my nails, then I’ll go through a spurt where I change the color daily. I try my best to stick to non-toxic brands, for A’s sinuses’ sake, but boy do I love me some OPI.

I thought I’d share the colors that make me swoon right now. Some I own, some I covet, all give me a fresh shot of happy, which I really need this time of year.

I’m always on the hunt for that elusive, perfect neutral. I think Scotch Naturals may have a winner. It’s described as a tawny beige-cream, but I think it has just enough pink in it to be perfect.

heather blush by scotch naturals

Dark colors make be feel sophisticated and sexy. I love colors that are one shade off of black, and I fell in love with Honk If You Love OPI when I got my post-marathon pedicure last year. So dark, so plum-perfect, I love it.

honk if you love opi by opi

Every gray day needs a little sparkle. A good platinum never goes out of style, and this one you can layer until you get your desired level of glitz. It’s neutral enough to not raise eyebrows at work, but I wouldn’t hesitate to throw this on for a glittery cocktail party. Cheers everyone! better! by opi

Speaking of glitter, this is my new favorite find. Coming from may favorite au natural line Zoya, this is on my toes right now and I absolutely love it. In the bottle it looks very violet, but when it’s on you get this strong coppery shimmer, backed by a lovely rosy-lavender hue. I think this will be a go-to for awhile.

faye by zoya

I’m cheating a bit with this last one, as it’s not just one color, but a collection. But I love Every. Single. One. And I couldn’t choose!

smoke collection by zoya

It’s got lavender neutrals, two unique purples (I’ll admit it, most of my nail polish collection is shades of purple. I can’t get enough!) super-hot-right-now colors of dark teal and olive. Plus, you know how I said I love dark colors? I’ve been looking for a perfect bitter-sweet chocolate brown color for years. So many nail lines have nice browns, but they’reeither too light, or have too much red, or have glitter, or something that makes them not what I’m looking for. Not anymore! The Smoke Collection includes my new nail obsession, Codie.

codie by zoya

Zoya  describes it as a blackened espresso brown creme with subtle olive undertones. Great for when you want something dark and dramatic but not black. Um, hello, yes please?!? A, my darling, my love, if you’re reading this, any of the above colors would make a great gift. I’m just sayin’.

Do you love nail polish as much as I do? What are your favorite shades right now?

Put A Bird On It!

8 Feb

Portlandia is a genius show. I know it’s set in Portland, Oregon, but it really has elements of Santa Cruz, Berkley, and San Francisco in it as well. Basically I think that if you live anywhere on the West Coast you’ll identify with some part of Portlandia.

Today I had to share one of my favorite sketches from the show, plus a story. First, here is my favorite Portlandia sketch, mostly because I love things with birds on them.

And here’s my story. The other day I was wrapping a present and found this great bag at Whole Foods. The Child (youngest sister) is a Portlandia fan as well, and also loves birds, so I sent her a picture of my wrap job with the following caption:

Put a bird on it!

She responded: “Hahaha! At first I thought ‘Oooo! Pretty!’ Then I saw your caption and thought, ‘Oooo…I am such a hipster. :/”

So here’s to hipsters everywhere, and celebrating the co-opting of all things hip by mainstream culture!

My New Everyday Pinot

23 Jan

I love pinot noir. It’s fruity, yet dry. Juicy, but cleansing. Flavorful, but not overpowering. I also love my local Whole Foods’ sommelier. Every time I walk in and am looking for the perfect wine to match my newly crafted attempt at cuisine, she’s there with a rocking recommendation that fits my budget. The other day I walked in, requesting an affordable wine (under $15 for me) that would compliment scallops and steak. She suggested this:

Fat Cat Pinot Noir, from Fat Cat Cellers in Napa, California. $7.99 at Whole Foods.

To quote my new sommelier bff: “It goes great with everything…fish, beef, watching tv on my couch with my cat…” I’ve taken this to two dinner parties, one home group meeting/impromptu cheese tasting, and one gift exchange, and it has never failed to please. I am constantly in search of a good wine that drinks just as well on it’s own as it does with food at a everyday wine price-range, and this definitely fits the bill. I just found out that they make a lot more wines than just a pinot, and I can’t wait to try the whole Fat Cat family!

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