Book File – Paris Without End

Paris Without End, by Gioia Diliberto, photo by Jacqueline WayneGuite

It’s been awhile since I did a Book File post, because I’ve been a bit too busy for spare-time reading. Since I moved to Chicago, my reading time has mostly been during my commute to and from work, which isn’t distraction free.

I picked up Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife by Gioia Diliberto back at the end of October and have finally finished it. As the title indicates, the book is a biography of Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, who married Ernest Hemingway in 1921. She was known throughout her life as Hadley.

Near the beginning of Hadley’s marriage to Ernest, they moved to Paris. Hadley struggled with self confidence early in her life, and Ernest helped bring out some of her bravery. Even though she was content not pursuing her own artistic career, as was fashionable in the American-expat circle they were part of, Hadley learned to navigate foreign countries, pursued athletic sports, and kept up with Ernest and his buddies when they drank. She was a flawed, loving, and gracious woman with many layers. Just when you’d think she was a pushover, Hadley’s story showed she wasn’t as simple as first or second appearances.

The biography was a little slow, and it focused mostly on Hadley’s relationship with Ernest. Their marriage was only 5 1/2 years long, but takes up the majority of the book. Her second marriage, which lasted nearly the rest of her life, was overshadowed in the book by a continued friendship with Ernest. I realize the author was most interested in Hadley’s relationship with Ernest, hence the title of the book, but I was a little disappointed that there was little about her that did not involve Ernest in some way. It was clear that there was a lot more to her than her first marriage.

Reading about Hadley and the expatriates in Ernest’s circle was fascinating, and I’m thinking about picking up a biography on Pauline Pfeiffer, Ernest’s second wife, soon. Hadley was a reasonable woman, who cared a great deal about her husband’s writing career and traveling. She did not care for the flipperies of fashion. But Pauline was a style maven. She worked for French Vogue and had a big trust fund. Paris Without End does not paint Pauline in a favorable light, but I’m curious what a biography on her might say.

And like I mentioned yesterday, some of the descriptions of bobbed hair and 1920s fashion in the book inspired my recent hair chop. Funny, because Hadley had beautiful, long hair when she first met Ernest, but hated her hair after she bobbed it. She never felt comfortable or chic with it short, according to the biography.

I should also note that I’ve started The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway’s second novel. It was written during his marriage to Hadley. Although she inspired a lot of his writing, there’s little of her in this book. Instead, it’s filled with glamorous and foolhardy characters based on Ernest’s friends during the 1920s.