The latest Literary Matters event in Greenwich featured best selling author Paula McLain, whose new book, "The Paris Wife," (Ballantine Books, $25) tells the story of Hadley Hemingway -- that largely forgotten first wife (of four) of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Ernest Hemingway. The book relates details of their marriage in the intoxicating and tumultuous world of Paris in the twenties.
McLain, an attractive brunette based in Cleveland, Ohio, fairly entranced her audience of 75 over a luncheon in the Riverside Yacht Club with how she was inspired by Hemingway's last work -- "A Moveable Feast" -- to search out that early romance between Hadley Richardson and Hemingway by reading their love letters in the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston.
From the letters McLain said she found the voice of Hadley Richardson. "I said this is my girl, this is my story." McLain came to know Hadley so well, that she could "channel her," she said, "I could write a memoir from her point of view."
Like Hadley, McLain fell in love with the young Hemingway versus the "egomaniac," the "misogynist," he later became she said. "He was gorgeous. He was electric, charismatic, magnetic. He was pretty persuasive to Hadley who had not really lived before." A spinster then, at 29, Hadley "had given up on love," she said.
At 21, Hemingway had already fought in a war and been badly wounded. "I began to feel incredible compassion and empathy for him," McLain said. "He sees Hadley and she is solid and true. He sees how Hadley is standing on solid ground -- he can trust her. She's utterly real."
The cache of love letters Hemingway wrote to Hadley in the 11 months he courted her, she said, included "thousands of pages." "Can you imagine getting two or three letters every day from Ernest Hemingway?" she asked the attentive crowd.
And they all tried to imagine.