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Reading Hemingway after Reading The Paris Wife

Updated on February 7, 2013

Did The Paris Wife make you want to read Ernest Hemingway?

I just finished The Paris Wife, and it made me want to re-read the Ernest Hemingway books from my college days. I've talked to several people who read The Paris Wife who never read any Hemingway and are now interested in finding out more about this great American writer. It occurred to me when I was rattling off titles for a friend that perhaps it would be a good idea to put together a real list for people.

Hemingway was an amazing writer, and came up with the "iceberg theory:" that most of the story should be below the surface. As a result, he believed that every single word that was on the page needed to be there. A lot is left unsaid and only hinted at, and the reader needs to be actively engaged in the writing. This can be troubling for the college student who chooses to read The Old Man and the Sea based on its short length!

The Sun Also Rises

The first book to read after The Paris Wife is, of course, The Sun Also Rises. This is an obvious choice, both because it's one of Hemingway's most well-known and loved books, but because it was written during the time of his marriage to Hadley and their time in Paris. The character of Hadley discusses Hemingway's process of writing this book fairly clearly, and it's really the best place to start. Set partially in the Paris of the 1920s, this book is a great start to Hemingway's work.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

One of the best war novels ever written, For Whom the Bell Tolls is about an American tasked with blowing up a bridge in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Dealing with themes of love and war over the span of a mere 3 days, this novel is a classic, and is notably considered his finest work by many. Hemingway utilized his experience as a journalist in Spain to render one of the most amazing war stories ever told.

A Farewell to Arms

One of Hemingway's earliest novels, A Farewell to Arms is taken from his experience in World War I. This is discussed at some length in The Paris Wife, so some of it will sound eerily familiar to Hemingway's doomed love affair with the British nurse Agnes. This is a story about love during wartime. It portrays the ugly realism of war in a way that only a soldier could.

Collected Short Stories

Personally, this is my favorite way to read Hemingway. I've always preferred his short stories; not that his novels aren't fantastic, but his writing style works better for me in short form (I know there are different opinions on this though!). When looking for a book with his collected short stories, you must make sure it has at least the following:

-- A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

-- The Snows of Kilimanjaro

-- Hills Like White Elephants

-- Big Two-Hearted River

"I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her."

-Ernest Hemingway about Hadley

A Moveable Feast

Based on his experiences in Paris, A Moveable Feast is a perfect book to read after reading The Paris Wife. Published posthumously, A Moveable Feast was unfinished at his death and was edited by his last wife before publication. Be careful which version you read: there is a later version re-edited by Sean Hemingway, Ernest's grandson by his second wife (that version is "The Restored Edition.").

This book is basically a memoir of his and Hadley's time in Paris, before he was famous. There are countless stories of the literary people they spent time with there: Ezra Pound, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and many more. A Moveable Feast is for anyone who wants to learn more about Hemingway, but also those who want to learn about that fascinating time period in Paris in the 1920s, when so much was happening all around them.

The Old Man and the Sea

This book by Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. The story is well-known: a old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, is in a fight for his life against a huge marlin far out in the Gulf. Although he wins the war, the marlin he has captured is eaten by fish on the trip home, so when he gets back to land, there is nothing left but bones. Though the story is simple, the character of Santiago is memorable in his willpower and strength.

This book came late in Hemingway's career, and revitalized it. This was his last great work published before his death.

Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife - Gioia Diliberto

If you want to learn more about Hemingway's life with Hadley in Paris, you can't do any better than this fantastic biography by Gioia Diliberto. Originally published in the 1990s, it has been re-issued, probably thanks in part to renewed interest from The Paris Wife. If you are interested in the real story of Hadley and Ernest, you shouldn't pass this book up.

Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife
Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife

Julie P. Shelton, an Amazon reviewer, put it best:

This meticulously researched book reads like a novel; so much that I could not put it down. Diliberto wrote it twenty years ago, so she was able to interview some of Hadley and Ernest's friends. One of those friends had actual tapes of conversations with Hadley herself.


Ernest Hemingway on eBay

If you are looking for more historical fare, and you're not afraid to spend a few (or sometimes, a lot!) of extra dollars, sometimes you can find first editions of Hemingway pieces on eBay. Make sure you have enough verification from the seller before buying!

Ernest Hemingway Biography DVD
Ernest Hemingway Biography DVD

Biography: Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life


Finally, if you want to know even more, it's worth checking out this A&E documentary on the man himself. Their Biography series is well-known, and they have done extensive research on Hemingway.

There are rare clips of Hemingway speaking as well as an amazing amount of archival footage. He was a flawed genius and the narrative doesn't shy away from showing him both at his highs and his lows. It talks about his womanizing, his depression, his drinking, but also his brilliance.

There's some language, just as there is in the writings of Hemingway, but nothing too outrageous. In all, it's a brilliant biography of the man who wrote all of these American tales.

HBO's Hemingway & Gellhorn

HBO is debuting a new movie about Ernest Hemingway on March 28, 2012, starring Clive Owen as Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as his third wife and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Though it's obviously not about Hadley, it should prove interesting to anyone who is interested in the whole of Hemingway's life.

What other Hemingway books should be read after The Paris Wife?

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    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      A Moveable Feast is my favorite collection written by Hemingway. I like how you related the idea of reading about Hemingway before rereading Hemingway.

    • FionaCarroll profile image

      Fiona Carroll 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Lovely blog. I loved "The Paris Wife". I just can't take to Hemingway's work though. Poor hadley, he treated Hadley most terribly, yet still she loved him.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I've never really gotten into Hemingway - but now my interest is piqued again.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am very impressed on knowing that this information is being shared here and actively discussed by these commentators here.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      You certainly caught my attention with this article. Thank you for a compelling reminder to read Hemingway's books.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      I'll add The Paris Wife to my reading list. One of my early teachers loved Hemingway, so I read a lot of his books way before high school. The Old Man and the Sea left quite an impression on me. I could even taste salt water.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      This will make for a good read, I always like to read about the lives of people who had so much influence in our culture.

    • ducktoessite profile image

      Cathie Dunklee-Donnell 5 years ago from Calgary, Alberta

      I prefer Faulkner to Hemingway. But I did enjoy Farewell to Arms.

    • aksem profile image

      aksem 5 years ago

      My favorite is The Sun Also Rises

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love biographies of writers even if I don't read their books. I'll have to look into The Paris Wife.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      The Sun Also Rises--I love his books-Love this lens too

    • TheGutterMonkey profile image

      The Gutter Monkey 5 years ago

      With the success of Woody Allen's Midnight and Paris and the upcoming HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn, that's set to air next month, I suspect that Hemingway is going to be getting a lot of new fans lately. Personally I've known who he was for quite some time, but I've yet to delve into his work. I need to get on that lol

    • zillermil profile image

      zillermil 5 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: I have a lot of friends who HATE Hemingway. But I really like him. Of course, I hate Faulkner...

    • kspoll profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This book is now on my must-read list. I love any kind of memoir of anyone who ever lived in Paris. From "Paris to the Moon" to "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Maybe you should put together a list like that...

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I'm sorry I can't offer suggestions, it's just down to Hemingway and me. We don't get on. I can admire his superb use of English but the man himself leaves me cold