Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Expats

Do you ever read "Book Page"? It's a free publication at your local library and is also available on-line at 

Recently they had an interview with Chris Pavone, a former non-fiction book editor and ghostwriter in New York, who jumped at the chance to move to Luxembourg when his wife was offered a job there.  As he explains, he was suddenly Mr.  Mom and decided to try his hand at writing a novel. He was having a hard time until one day he met an expat mom in the park who was being very secretive about her past.  

He said "I got to thinking, what if this woman did something horrible?" There could be "lots of reasons to move abroad, to change your life entirely. And it amused me to think that maybe this woman used to be a spy. Which led me to, what if my main character actually was this person with this secret..., not only from all of her new friends but also her husband? I think most people have no idea what their spouses do all day long.  ...and it's possible that it's just completely not what the other person thought it would be.".

This intrigued me enough to pick up his book, The Expats.  It is immensely readable and well-crafted.  It explores the secrets that one keeps from friends, spouse and even oneself.  It isn't overly political and not violent.  As a reviewer at Good Reads commented:"the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships".  How true.  For a fast-paced read be sure to check it out!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Paris Wife
Hadley Richardson


Between The Lines Book Group recently discussed The Paris Wife.

The author, Paula McLain, born in 1965, was abandoned by both parents and became a ward of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1966.  She is the author of collections of poetry, a memoir "Like Family:  Growing Up in Other People's Houses" and the novel, A Ticket to Ride.

The Paris Wife, is her most recent novel, published in February, 2011.  It is a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to the first of his four wives, Hadley Richardson, and is told from Hadley's point of view.  It is mainly set in Paris in the 1920s.  It features some of the soon to be famous people that were deemed "The Lost Generation" such as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and many more.  The author had access to hundreds of letters and documents so although this is an historical fiction the voice of Hadley rings true throughout the novel.

Hadley, Ernest & their son

Our members liked this book and although no one professed to "love" it we all were glad to have read it and to learn more about this amazing period in literary history.  Some questioned how it was possible that so many famous people arose out of this post World War I era. 

Many of us have read Hemingway's novels years ago and commented that we should read one now to see how it has stood the test of time.  Hemingway seemed larger than life even when very young.  He was charismatic and handsome and most felt it was natural that Hadley could fall in love with him in the beginning of their relationship.  However, we are women from a different era and weren't quite sure why he had such a hold on her following their initial courtship.  He was in his early 20s and Hadley almost 30.  Their marriage grew to be strictly based on Hadley supporting Ernest in every way, much as a mother would do to champion her child.  We didn't see Ernest supporting Hadley's ambitions and that seemed to frustrate some readers.  This lead to a broader discussion of women's roles in the early 20th century vs. the women of today.

Reading this book fits in well with other books and movies that are popular now.  Both War Horse (book, play and movie) and the movie Midnight in Paris feature this era. It was recommended that if you like this book then it is great fun to watch Midnight in Paris to see the same characters and settings featured.