I have read a few Hemingway books and loved them, but never really thought much of him as a person (I tend to be a bit moralistic about serial marry-ers, daters, etc.), but I had such a pleasant surprise reading A Moveable Feast that I think I have to revisit my notions about him.
A Moveable Feast focusses on Hemingway and his first wife’s early married life in the 1920s when Hadley and Hemingway were in Paris as a newly married couple and moving among the members of the “Lost Generation” — people like Gertrude Stein, the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, John Dos Pasos, and Picasso.
The book is a series of anecdotes about Hemingway’s encounters with all these luminous personalities and sometimes these encounters are flattering to them and sometimes not. What they are is very interesting. All these people are so vividly drawn that as a reader they almost come to life.
Just as interesting is the setting of the book – Paris is always a dream destination for me, and reading about all his haunts and his pastimes was such fun. If you are planning to visit Paris and if you love books, then you absolutely must take this book on your trip. If you don’t believe me, check out Chasing Bawa’s post. I would love to track down and visit some of his hangouts someday.
My copy of the book also had some lovely photos of him with his friends and family, and it really added to my pleasure in this book.
I was surprised by his tender and affectionate relationship with his wife Hadley (although it is not the focus of the book); he comes across as such a macho man that this side to his character came as a surprise. Towards the end though, I suspect there were some major edits about what really happened. He conveniently leaves out his entire trip to Pamplona in Spain (where he first starts an affair with his wife’s friend…eww), and his last few pages deal with the break up of his marriage too superficially, but I guess he is entitled to keep some amount of privacy for himself and Hadley. I did find his last words on his marriage very poignant:
When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.
But then of course, this was a path he had chosen, so I didn’t really feel thaat sorry for him!
What this book has done is whetted my curiosity to know more about Hadley, and I am planning to do that by reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Although it is not a biography but a retelling, I would love to hear the story from the wife’s point of view as well.
Have you read The Paris Wife? What did you think of it? It’s recently published and got quite a lot of attention in the blogosphere. Did reading it make you want to read A Moveable Feast?