June 20, 2013
Recently Read - Paris in the 1920s
I just love it when I get whisked away by a good book. I stay up too late and get bags under my eyes, but it's totally worth it. I've been spending my time lately in Paris, and it has been wonderful.
I started with The Paris Wife. It's about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. Although actually, I'd say it's really more about Ernest and Paris in the 20s, through the eyes of Hadley. It's a very interesting book, especially as the name-dropping begins. (Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, The Fitzgeralds...) I liked Hadley, and I felt sorry for her along the way, but I honestly felt as though she wasn't as essential to the book except as the narrator. Others have told me that they felt very differently, that they felt a strong connection to her, but she didn't inspire me overall. The book, however, did.
After spending time with Hemingway's wife, I moved on to F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. This book, as with The Paris Wife, is fiction, but it's based on factual events and people. It's biographical fiction, and it too is fascinating. To me, Zelda was a much more interesting character than Hadley. She was pretty, ambitious, intelligent, creative, and yes just a little crazy (diagnosed with schizophrenia, the current prevailing belief is that she was bipolar). It's intriguing to imagine how a person such as her would've lived in today's society as compared to back then. She struggled with her role in her marriage, with her mental illness, to have her voice heard, to contribute something creatively. (She was also a writer, and dancer, and artist.) Zelda and Scott had a true romance, but you can also see how destructive they were to each other. Would they have been better apart? Interesting questions to ponder. And as with The Paris Wife, I got to spend more time in Paris.
Then I decided to read some of the master himself, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I had never read this book. It's a collection of stories from his time in Paris in the 1920s. A lot of the same stories are referenced in the above books, and it was fun to hear them told by Hemingway. His writing is stark, and honest, and beautiful. Lots of long, run-on sentences that transport you to his place and time. I enjoyed some stories more than others, of course, but overall I really loved this book. I can imagine it's one I will pick up again, if only to read a story or two.
Have you read any of these books? If not, I highly recommend them all! If so, what did you think?