Thursday, March 03, 2011

Virtual Book Tour & Guest Post: Paula McLain

Please join me in welcoming Paula McLain, author of  The Paris Wife to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here

Enjoy and be sure to enter the giveaway!

There’s a moment in A Moveable Feast, when Ernest Hemingway and his new wife, Hadley, have just moved to Paris, where he’s hoping to earn his stripes as a writer. It’s 1922. Winter has settled grimly in, and Hemingway, sitting in a café after a day’s writing, watches a cold rain falling and feels the grip of melancholy and emptiness. He orders a dozen portugaises and dry white wine and as he eats the oysters, “with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture,” something happens. The emptiness he’s feeling is washed away, too. It occurs to him that he and Hadley could leave Paris for a holiday in the Swiss Alps, where there would be lovely snow instead of rain. He rushes home to tell Hadley of his plan and she agrees wholeheartedly. Within days they’re tucked into a cozy chalet in Chamby, Switzerland. They teach themselves to ski and, at night, lay tucked into the featherbed with their books and a fire roaring nearby, and everything is better than good. It saves them.

Researching Hemingway and Hadley’s life together for The Paris Wife, it struck me that the overwhelming success of this trip to Chamby set a tone for their marriage. For the next five years, as Hemingway was becoming the writer we know now, arguably the most influential of his generation, he and Hadley lived in Paris and traveled with increasing relish—from the ice glaciers of the Austrian Vorarlberg to the hot cobblestones of Pamplona and everywhere in between: Milan, Rapallo, Lausanne, Antibes, Madrid, Valencia, San Sebastian. They had an endless appetite for a fresh view, exotic dish, unfamiliar wine—for life, really. And as I worked on The Paris Wife, tracing their journeys imaginatively, living with them in these amazing places, I was literally swept away.

I wrote nearly all of the first draft tucked into a brown velveteen chair at Starbucks in Cleveland, where I live. Hardly a Parisian café—and yet it didn’t matter. Outside the fogged glass, it was October, then December, then February. Snow fell, melted, fell again—but I didn’t really feel it. I had slipped through a miraculous portal to San Sebastian and the blinding white sand beach of La Concha, or to the first riotous night of Fiesta in Pamplona, complete with chirping fifes and fireworks and riau-riau dancing.

When I finished the book, late in May, I almost couldn’t let it go. Living inside their story was such an incredible voyage—and because I’ve been very lucky indeed, it hasn’t ended. This past summer I traced the Hemingways’ route through France and Spain—Paris to San Sebastian to Pamplona, to Antibes. It was a life-changing trip and it began with a plate of perfect oysters, portugaises, and dry white wine at one of Hemingway’s favorite Parisian cafés, the Closerie des Lilas. They tasted of the sea, yes, and also of history and memory. Of sweeping love, and life lived to the fullest. They tasted of Hemingway’s Paris and my own extraordinary good fortune—and I savored every last drop. 

About the author: Paula McLain received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been a resident of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She is the author of two collections of poetry, as well as a memoir, Like Family, and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives in Cleveland with her family. You can visit Paula McLain’s website to learn more about The Paris Wife at

Thank you Paula for contributing this great guest post, and thanks to Cheryl at  Pump Up Your Book  for coordinating it.


  1. Thanks for hosting Paula today. I'm set to read this one at the end of the month too. I can't wait.

  2. @CherylThanks for coordinating everything! I loved this book and have been telling all my family about it!!!

  3. Wonderful guest post! The book sounds intriguing. How fortunate that the author was able to visit some of Hemingway's favorite places.

  4. I have been wanting to read this book for awhile now, and this post is is making me even more anxious to add this to my book pile!


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