The Paris Wife

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A three-star average book for me. Interesting enough, and well-researched and written, but not a style of writing (leaning toward romancy chick-lit) that I seek out nor a time and place that I am interested in. I read this because it fit my “wife” titles theme, and the bookclub is reading Hemingway next – an author I have never read. If you enjoy Paris, the 1920s, and biographical fiction this would be a lovely book for you. My overall impression of this doomed marriage is that Hadley was woefully out of her element. She would have made the perfect 1950s housewife with kids, but Hemingway was a man who enjoyed women, drinking, action (bull-fighting), and the bohemian lifestyle of the rich and famous expats of 1920s Paris.

Book description:
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

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A Weekend with Mr. Darcy

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts, #1)A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick, fun read (even though it took me 3 months to read…) – light-hearted, cozy Austen fan fiction. Called the first of a trilogy, there are now 6 in the series. Don’t expect any great wit or social commentary, but there are plenty of references to Austen novels, Austen characters, Austen movies, etc. No explicit sex – this could be read by your age-13 teenage daughter. There are two love stories – the college professor, Katherine, an Austen scholar, who secretly loves the bodice-rippers of Lorna Warwick, and has carried on a correspondence with her – not knowing she is a he. When she meets him at a Jane Austen conference (not knowing his secret identity) and falls in love – well, you know it isn’t going to turn out well when she does find out… And then we have the young secretary who comes to the conference, followed by her long-time boyfriend that she is trying to ditch. He crashes the conference in several humorous scenes, and surprises her with a very public marriage proposal, but Robyn has fallen for the brother of Dame Pamela, whose home is the setting for the conference. I didn’t find a lot of sympathy for Katherine – she came off as rather cold – and Warwick bordered on TSTL. But Robyn’s story – stuck in a dead-end relationship out of guilt and not knowing how to move her life forward – was sweet and satisfying. For both of them the answers boil down to “What Would Jane Austen Do?” Shallow and sappy, but I just might try another in the series.

Book description: Of course she’s obsessed with Jane Austen…Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only thing keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen and her personal secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts conference in the English countryside is the perfect opportunity to escape her chaotic life and finally relax… But then she encounters a devilishly handsome man at the conference who seems determined to sweep her off her feet. Is he more fiction than fact? Or could he be the hero she didn’t know she was looking for?

Spinster

Spinster: Making a Life of One's OwnSpinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the lives of single women over the last 150 years or so, through the eyes of a young journalist coming to terms with the by now outdated expectation that women must be married to lead happy and fulfilling lives. She also writes about the lives of 5 other women writers who served as her role models. I think there is much more that could be said about this topic, since she looks mostly at women who did not want to marry and have families (some of them did anyway) and made choices that fostered their independence. To me, a spinster is someone not independent by choice, and who has not come to terms with their unmarried and unloved state. A spinster, to me, has neither husband nor boyfriend nor female partner. She throws all single women, divorced, widowed, and otherwise into the spinster category. So I was kind of expecting something else from this book, but judged on what it is, she writes well and it did make me think from time to time.

Book description: “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

H is for Hawk

H is for HawkH is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful intimate look at the world of falconry, a memoir of loss and grief, and an examination of the life and world of T.H. White. A fan of White ever since the Disney version of A Sword in the Stone, I quickly realized how little I knew of this apparently tortured man. Any rereading of The Once and Future King will undoubtedly be enriched by this. Helen gives us a moving portrait of her father, as she examines the rawness of her own grief accompanied by the rawness of living close to a wild, untameable creature. Life with a goshawk confronts us with death — but death as a part of the whole cycle of life and being alive. Her lyrical meditations cover the gamut of human experience — history, philosophy, psychology, the natural world, hopes, fears, depression, madness, cruelty, love and healing — told with heart-wrenching honesty.

Book Description: When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.