At this moment, I'm looking at the most beautiful proof you will ever see. Slotted inside are two postcards. One shows a couple in the snow, the other a group of friends, laughing, happy. On the front of the book are the letters H and E.
This is a novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. Told from the point of view of Hadley, The Paris Wife is the story of their whirlwind courtship and wedding as they are thrust into a life of artistic ambition, hard liquor, sparky talk and spur-of-the-moment dashes to Pamplona, the Riviera and the Swiss Alps. But Jazz Age Paris – hectic, glamorous, its inhabitants running headlong from the shadow of the Great War – does not lend itself to family life and fidelity…
I read this book at work one day last year. Ursula Doyle, Editorial Director here at Virago, wanted to buy it and wanted my opinion. As I finished, I looked up, blinking at the office life around me as I came to the realisation that I wasn't in Paris and Hadley hadn't just been talking to me. I wanted to turn back to the beginning of the manuscript and start again (I have done actually, more than once).
This book is competely amazing. Paula McLain has carefully crafted every word; she's brought Hadley and Ernest and their mad friends lovingly to life, and created a Paris that makes you be the very best version of yourself. And at the same time she's written a heart-wrenching love story between two unforgettable people who can't quite stop everything unravelling.
It's out in March 2011, but keep an eye out on Twitter – @ViragoBooks - where I'll be giving away some of these truly special proofs.
He tells me his name is Ernest.
‘I’m thinking of giving it away, though. Ernest is so dull, and Hemingway? Who wants a Hemingway? What do you think? Should I toss it out?’
‘Maybe not just yet. You never know. A name like that could catch on.’