Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Paris Wife and The Marriage Plot

For me to really enjoy a book, I need to engage with the characters.  While I enjoyed both the books shown above, I didn't love them.  And the reason is because I couldn't care enough about the characters - I neither loved nor hated them.

The Paris Wife is a fictionalized account of the marriage of Ernest and Hadley Hemingway.  Set during the 20s in Paris, the reader sees their marriage through the eyes of Hadley, who tells a first-person narrative of loving and marrying Hemingway, having their child, and meeting all kinds of interesting people in the Paris of the 20s.

Hemingway was not a terribly attractive character.  Not only did he cheat on his wife - he was a serial husband and philanderer - he was vicious to his most supportive friends.  He might be famous, but I couldn't love him as a character.  Long-suffering Hadley tells the story of their penurious marriage and her unfailing dedication to his career.  Yet, somehow it didn't ring true for me.  The claim of eternal poverty was belied by the fact that there always seemed to be someone there for child care for their son and enough money for their many holidays trips, many with their son being cared for back in Paris.  Hadley just wasn't very interesting or likeable either.

The Marriage Plot follows three characters through university and post-graduate activities.  Madeleine, the pivotal character,  has long been admired by the rather timid Mitchell, a religion major seeking spiritual enlightenment.  However, she falls in love with and marries Leonard, a brilliant and charismatic science major, who suffers from bipolar disease.  For me, there wasn't enough motivational explanation for Madeleine falling in love with Leonard; he is simply not fascinating enough in his manic moments to compensate for his periods of deep depression.  Mitchell is the classic nice guy, but he's just too bland and timid to get me engaged.  I really didn't care about these characters either.

So there you have it - two not-bad books, but not gripping enough for my taste.

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