Looking for books on Hemingway for my hubby's anniversary present, I hoped that the reviews for this book were accurate. I needn't have worried - it is an excellent depiction of Hemingway's time in Paris and I found it moved me to try reading him for myself, starting with "A Moveable Feast"!
This is an engrossing book that makes you feel like you are actually walking alongside Hemingway during his early years in Paris. I could feel the cold that he felt on his cheek, I could see the smile that Hadley gave him every time he walked into their dark little apartment after a hard day of writing in the cafes. This is due to Michael Reynolds superb, painstaking research, the photographs, and the copies of original manuscript that he included in this biography. I cannot stress enough how unlike an usual biography this is...Hemingway literally leaps out at you from the first sentence and pulls you into his world, lets you experience his poverty and first marriage in Paris, the birth of his son, the arrival of his first mistress, and the amazing literary scene in Paris that has now apparently died for good. Hemingway has amazing quotes on writing, life, living through your failures, and it was a pleasure to get to read the library list of every book he checked out during this time period. This is an amazing book, and the best biography I have EVER read in my life.
Recently, I read 'The Paris Wife' by Paula McLain, which is told from the point of view of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. As always when I read historical fiction on real-life people, I want to read a biography to try to find out how much is true and how the true events took place. I have bought several books on Hemingway’s life and this is the first one that I read.
It is an excellent book, written in beautiful prose, and like so many of the good writers of biographies, it is more exciting and interesting as any fiction. One can of course say, that Hemingway’s life was more exciting the most, but still. Reynolds has written five books about Hemingway; 'The Young Hemingway', 'The Paris Years', 'The Homecoming', 'The 1930s', and 'The Final Years'. This is the second part of his life. Maybe also the most important part, since these are the years that he learned the handicraft and formed his later writings. Paris at the time was full of writers, journalists and artists, many of them expats like himself; Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Sylvia Beach and her famous book shop Shakespeare and Company, and many others.
We follow Hemingway from when he first arrives in Paris in 1922, with Hadley. The book covers four years up to 1925. That is just before Hemingway makes it as a writer with his first successful novel The Sun Also Rises. There was not always easy times, since they were short of money. They lived on an heritage fond of Hadley's and Hemingway earned extra money as a journalist. These were the days of the peace negotiations after the First World War, trying to find a new economic base for life in Europe. It was interesting times and Hemingway was there. He learned a lot from fellow, experienced journalist, travelled all over Europe and to Turkey to cover events there.
He and Hadley lived in a community of expats and cultural people, maybe even bohemian people. It was quite a different life from the one they had at home. Hemingway had problems with his parents and tried to get away from their life style. He and Hadley lived happily the first years, and their son John Hadley Nicanor "Jack" Hemingway, called Bumpy at the time was born in 1923 in Canada, where they went for his birth. Soon afterwords they were back in Paris where Hemingway had more time to concentrate on his own writing.
This was the time when he discovered his interest in bull fighting and fishing. He went several years to Pamplona for the bull run which fascinated him. He was a very good observer and could later in detail tell on the terrible bull fights and how it looked when the bull died. Their last visit in 1925, was more or less the beginning to the end to Hemingway's marriage and also to friendships with their friends. He put a lot of them, not Hadley, into his new novel that was to become his first success; The Sun Also Rises.
This is where the books end, just before his first novel. Just before the end of his marriage to Hadley, and just before he broke up to go with his mistress Pauline Pfeiffer. They eventually married.
At the end of his life, Hemingway said: Hadley, "I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her."
The book is very well written and describes Paris life and makes it real. He also manages to describe the relationship with Hadley and his other friends in Paris. These are the years where Hemingway fine tuned his writing, where he sent in short stories that came back. Often because they were to free in describing relationships. However, it paid out, and his future writing could be said to rest on the lessons he learned here.
An excellent read and necessary if you like Hemingway!
Terrific addition to the 'story' of the Paris Left Bank 1920s literati. Reynold's book is a brilliant read, laced with facts, dates, faimiliar names and Hemmingway's own life and words. Not just a chronological list, Reynolds tells a fascinating and objective narrative uncovering the man behind the myth. He echoes Hemmingway's style at times and keeps his own observations open and known, balanced against other's views of the Hemmingways. One of the best biographies I have read - and thoroughly enjoyed, a 'cant put down' page turner.
Michael Reynolds' account of the early years of Hemingway's career really brings this period to life. As well as showing detailed research he paints the reader an insightful picture of the author, his motivation and his relationships. Hemingway was a master at alluding to a dramatic and glamorous life, and Reynolds' book shows us the truth behind the myths.