Monday, June 27, 2011

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

I wrote a research paper on Ernest Hemingway sometime in high school.  I had just read the Sun Also Rises and he was one of the people on a list we could choose from and he was a great American writer and that appealed to me.

After I wrote my research paper, I never really liked him all that much.

The Paris Wife is a work of fiction focusing on Hem's early life in Chicago and Paris, with his first wife, Hadley Richardson.  The story is told from Hadley's point of view.  She was a good strong, midwesterner, and she was a level, even soul for the tumultuous, manic depressive Hemingway (manic depressive is my diagnosis).  He clung to her after, because she made him feel better and safer after his war years, and his jilting by Agnes, the nurse who healed him.

I mean seriously you could look at all his issues and just talk about how he was looking for a mother figure, and what that means about his mom, but this story is about Hadley.

Anyway.  So Hadley and Hem take off for Paris on next to nothing, live on next to nothing, and he's a reporter working on writing and they meet all sorts of fabulous people in Paris (Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald) and it's all fun and games and then Hadley gets pregnant on accident.

Things start falling off (at least in the books interpretation) right about then.  Hem was not ready to be a dad and Hadley just weeks before the baby announcement had lost his entire lifes work on a train.  These two events were near each other, and in the book Hemingway blames his loss of trust in Hadley on the loss of the work ... but I'm thinking the baby cramping his style didn't help much either.

Everyone knows Hemingway's story is not a happy one, so this book is not very cheerful.  There are pockets of happiness but after Bumby is born it's all down hill.  He had multiple wives (5) so their marriage was going to end, and it did, with Hemingway's affair with Pauline.  I don't believe that Pauline was his first affair (she certainly wasn't his last) but that's sort of what the book eludes to, at least from Hadley's perspective.

This was difficult to get through because the beginning is so very dry and not much happens as Hem is looking for friends to help him get noticed in the literary community, and as he tries to write his great novel.  After the baby is born it got more interesting for me, and I was able to finish quickly.

Hemingway is one of my favorite writers (probably because I know more about him than the others) but I say that with a caveat; he really was a terrible human being.  This book, though a work of fiction, didn't do anything to change that impression.  Worth reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Small Sacrifices

Small Sacrifices, Ann Rule

This is a genre really new to me, true crime.  It was written by a former detective and is about the story of Diane Downs, who in 1983 tried to kill her three children.  She succeeded in killing one, and left the other two critically injured.

This book took me too far down the rabbit hole that is Diane Downs life.  Her past is sad, her family life is sad, and the crazy things she did (who let her become a surrogate mother?!) just hurt my heart.  For the place that I'm in in my life (young new mom) this just was hard to read.  But she evidence (not that we needed any) that women can become addicted to being pregnant, and how everyone is so nice to you and treats you special when you are pregnant.


Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

This was okay. I liked the first two much better. Peeta's role in this was so minor, and Katniss just isn't very likeable. The resolution of the triangle was believable but HORRIBLE. And seriously, it ended pretty quickly, without everyone understanding what Katniss figured out. That sort of bothered me. I guess we are left to assume that they all did learn. But ...

A very good series, but Peeta carries it in my opinion as the most likable character and his absence in this book is felt. I wish Katniss was a more moral character, but she just isn't. I think I would ahve reservations about my 7th grader reading this without my talking about it. First the whole series is VERY violent and the lead, like I said, doesn't seem very moral or really worth respecting as the leader of a rebellion.

Which brings me to what I think the author was trying to do ... I think the author was trying to say that rebels are just as evil as oppressers? Or at least just as guilty of violence, and Katniss's confusion is supposed to show how bad both sides are? And the fact that the rebels, as soon as they've "won" start implementing the same regime that was in place before, just sort of proves that to me. Even in the rebel camp, the rules there were as bad as the capitol, the leader as bad the oppressive leader they were overthrowing.

The end result of this book, what we're left with, is that human beings suck, and it's better to live on a farm alone than be with people.

Which, for the record, I completely disagree with.