Hemingway loved Hadley best.
Fans of Hemingway may relish this memoir by Hotchner (O.J. in the Morning, G&T at Night, 2013, etc.), who has mined his 14-year friendship with the writer to produce a biography, an edition of their correspondence, and several other books. Here, Hotchner offers a verbatim recollection of conversations that occurred in several locations, over many years, about Hemingway’s first marriage, to Hadley Richardson, which ended when he fell in love with Pauline Pfeiffer. After divorcing Hadley, he married Pauline, quickly discovering that he had made a huge mistake. Hadley, he confessed to Hotchner, was the love of his life. Although Hadley called her husband a romantic, he emerges here as self-absorbed, childish, and unbelievably naïve. According to Hemingway, Pauline insinuated herself into his life by befriending Hadley and spending a great deal of time with the couple. Soon, she seduced him; captivated by her attentions and “explosive, wildly demonstrative” sex, he fell in love. When Hadley discovered their affair, he became angry. Why should it matter? “I wanted to have both of them just as they were,” Hemingway told Hotchner. “I didn’t know much about women, did I?” Hadley gave him 100 days to get over what he called his “peculiar passion,” but to his surprise, she agreed to divorce before the time was up. “What I felt was the sorrow of loss. I had contrived this moment,” he said, “but I felt like the victim.” He felt even more surprise when Hadley quickly remarried, since he had nurtured the “fantasy that she would still be single when, as it seemed more and more likely, I would leave Pauline and return to her” and their son. Hotchner portrays Hemingway as sad and lonely, but he fails to generate sympathy for him.
Papa’s relationships with women have been so amply explored that this memoir offers little that is fresh or illuminating.