When I was a schoolgirl in France I imagined how my life would be. It involved extraordinaire people living extraordinaire lives. I was one of them, of course. It had a lot to do with the extreme amount of poetry and literature I was reading back then.
I wanted a life spent at a Parisian café terrace, reading poetry while drinking cocktails at Les Deux Magots, talking of literature while listening to journalists critiquing the latest must-read book, and writing very early morning when the light on Paris allows the craziest promises and very late at night when the light on Paris allows the wildest dreams.
The kind of life you read in The Paris Wife from Paula McLain, a novel as striking as the people who inhabit the story. Striking with unusual talent and unforgiving flaws.
Very much like life where grace and mess constantly brush against each other. This mix can only trigger hope and despair, beauty and hideousness, love and hate. Tumult.
I haven’t lived the kind of life I described above, even though I read lots of French poetry and spent lots of time inside and outside Parisian cafés and wrote, early and late in the day. On the other side I never drank cocktails and preferred less well-known cafés to Les Deux Magots.
Now, far from Paris, my dreams of living from nothing but d’amour et d’eau fraiche – literally with only love and fresh water – are somehow tamed.
Some of my days resemble to the most promising plot. Some are as breathtaking as a poem. Some events keep me on the edge like the most emotionally well-developed story. Some people I know are as extraordinaire and as messy as characters from The Paris Wife.
In truth: more days are more blah than bling.
Like Hadley had to find her own ways to cope with bigger than life Hemingway, I find importance in small things and live from their significance.
Cheering for my son and daughters when they get an A on a math or English test. Finding the comfort words for the same son or daughters when someone breaks their hearts. Crying with a friend who’s lost a loved one. Kissing a good luck kiss to a husband who worries for an important professional meeting. Applauding a friend’s success. Laughing with all the people above around a good meal.
And always my own little silver lining: the little flame inside me that dances with joy when I wake up at the prospect of writing again.
P.S. If you haven’t read The Paris Wife, go for it. It will make you love and hate Hemingway, love and hate the 1920s, love and hate even Paris.