A pleasure to read—and a pleasure to see Hadley Richardson presented in a sympathetic light.

THE PARIS WIFE

An imaginative, elegantly written look inside the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson.

Hadley, literary history tells us, was Hemingway’s rescuing angel; eight years older than he, she was the woman who lifted him from his postwar depression as a wounded veteran and helped restore his battered confidence. He, of course, was smitten; she was too, charmed by “his grin, elastic and devastating.” “To keep you from thinking,” McLain’s (A Ticket to Ride, 2008, etc.) narrator puts it, “there was liquor, an ocean’s worth at least, all the usual vices and plenty of rope to hang yourself with. But some of us, a very few in the end, bet on marriage against the odds.” Marriage it was, and from there McLain’s story becomes one of battling those long odds. After a sojourn in Toronto, the two head off to Paris—whence the title—at novelist Sherwood Anderson’s suggestion, not just to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate but also to plunge headlong into the most active literary scene on the planet. By McLain’s account, true to history, Hadley at times verges a touch on the naive but, for the most part, is tough and sophisticated; she holds her own with Ezra Pound (“He’s very noisy…but he has some fine ideas”) and Gertrude Stein, hangs tough with the bulls in Pamplona, and keeps up with Hemingway when he was young and vigorous and had not yet settled into his boozy “Papa” persona. McLain’s Hemingway is outwardly a touch less obdurate than even Hemingway’s own depiction of himself, especially at the climactic moment in which his manuscripts go missing, in which McLain puts a slight twist on history; clearly it marks the beginning of the end, whereupon the tale takes on the contour of a Jill Clayburgh vehicle. The closing pages, in particular, are both evocative and moving, taking in the sweep of events over a third of a century and providing a resolution that, if not neat, is wholly in character.

A pleasure to read—and a pleasure to see Hadley Richardson presented in a sympathetic light.

Pub Date: March 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-52130-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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