Tag Archives: The Paris Wife

Friday Five: Books That Keep Me Up All Night

2 Mar

There’s been a lot of sleepless nights lately at casa de BiRL. For once it’s not just because of insomnia, I’ve been reading some really excellent books lately. Unfortunately they all seem to get good right before bed. So here they are, the top five titles that have kept me up lately, from most to least recent:

The Paris Wife

Since I just reviewed this awesome book, I’ll spare you, except to say read it! But not before bed. I saw the sun rise thanks to this little gem.

Unbroken

Again, recently reviewed. This one comes with a serious Do Not Start Before Bed warning. Or, if you do, stop once Loius gets to Hawaii. After that there’s no turning back until the war’s over.

The Night Circus

Oh! I so called it! I picked up this book shortly after it came out (that was pre-Bigger in Real Life, and I’ve been meaning to write the review for a while) and as soon as I was done I said to A, “I bet they’re going to make this into a movie. It would make a really good one.” And I was right! (I’d put money on Unbroken being made into a movie too, by the way.) I totally see this visually taking on a Baz Luhrmann à la Moulin Rouge feel. Here’s hoping! Check out Cinema Blend for the full story. Anyhow, self-congratulations aside, this book is lovely. Luminous yet dark with pulsating, palpable descriptions, The Night Circus is a haunting novel that feeds into my love of gothic-esque fiction. It’s a longer read, so didn’t read all of it in one night, but I definitely stayed up way past the point of comfort because I couldn’t ever fathom what would come next.

Another Piece of My Heart

Jane Green’s been a favorite of mine for years. Yes, she writes what would be classified as “chick lit,” but I like to think that it’s the thinking girl’s chick lit. I snagged this book as a pre-publication promo, and it’s another book I’ve been meaning to review. Jane Green still needs to get an American to proof-read her books for accuracy sake, but I think this is her most raw, moving book to date. She takes an already hard situation–making a blended family work when the mom is an alcoholic, the dad is raising his two girls, the oldest of which becomes unmanageable when he marries another woman, around whom most of the story is based–and ups the ante by throwing in infertility issues and a prodigal daughter. All this has the potential to stray across the line of believability in the hands of a less talented writer, but Jane Green always writes incredibly believable characters that have you feeling every hurt and triumph right along with them. Though a longer novel for a girly-book, it’s still a fast, yet satisfying read. I read this in one night mostly because I thought I could. And I did.

Garden Spells

I own every book Sarah Addison Allen has written, thanks to how utterly and completely I fell in love with Garden Spells. Her other books are wonderful, but nothing compares to this first one. I picked it up before a long weekend in a mountain cabin, not knowing what to expect. After reading for a half-hour next to an increasingly sleep-deprived A, I got up and padded into the living room because I knew I was in it for the long haul. I fell head-over heels into the world of Claire and Sydney Waverly, their lives, their loves, their tenuous trip towards accepting each other as sisters and making a life together. One part Practical Magic, one part Like Water for Chocolate, this book made me hungry for new experiences and for home-grown, handcrafted food. I’ve read it at least four times since its publication, and it never disappoints. It’s one of my best books on my shelf.

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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.

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