A MOVEABLE FEAST BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
THE PARIS WIFE BY PAULA McLAIN
West Maui Book Club Comparison Read Discussion Questions:
1 If ever there were a “he said, she said” opportunity, reading and comparing these two novels would surely be a fine example. Both fictions cover the same early to mid-1920’s era. Both books pertain to the same people. And, both books leave us with impressions as to how people lived, loved, survived, aspired or did not aspire, while living in Paris during a time of great literary expansion. I underlined and italicized the word “fiction” to underscore the significance of this to both writers.
Hemingway had several false starts with his AMF introduction in the 1964 version but in “The Restored Edition” of 2009, Hemingway’s introduction was removed. Instead, Sean Hemingway wrote one, however, in the “Fragments” section, the editor et el did include many of the statements Hemingway was trying to write in his introduction: “This book is fiction…This book is all fiction…It was necessary to write as fiction rather than fact…” There are more on file at the JFK Library in Boston.
McLain also wrote her book as a work of historical fiction based on actual letters, etc. but states well that “apart from the well-known actual people, events, and locales that figure in the narrative, all names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously…”.
Was it easier to see why both writers chose to do literary fiction verses nonfiction? And while reading both fictions, did you ever loose sight of this fact?
2 Would you agree that both novels are first and foremost love stories? McLain writes in her “A Note On Sources” that “The true story of the Hemingway’s marriage is so dramatic and compelling, and has been so beautifully treated by Ernest Hemingway himself in A Moveable Feast, that my intention became to push deeper into the emotional lives of the characters and bring new insight to historical events, while staying faithful to the facts.”
3 Both novels elaborate on the lost suitcase of manuscripts, stories and carbons that Hadley was bringing to Ernest. How do the two accounts compare? Who suffered more as a result? And, did you feel McLain or Hemingway thought it was damaging or constructive to his rewrite?
4 The Paris Wife is a story more about their personal account as husband/wife and how it all ended; while A Moveable Feast is more about the times, people, and actions of the day. Assuming you read the more personal account first, were you able to insert McLain’s view point into the accounts Hemingway gave in certain stories like, “Hawks Do Not Share”, a story written about the Fitzgerald’s and he mentions Pauline’s name for the very first time and without reference as to who she is and how she came to be mentioned? However, if you read A Moveable Feast first, did you wonder whom Pauline was? Do you think if the order of the stories were different, you would then have better known who she was?
5 Both novels talk of Gertrude Stein but the experiences Hadley and Hemingway shared with her were dynamically different. Hadley – the wife – sat and spoke with Stein’s life partner, Alice Toklas, while Hemingway mentored brilliantly under Stein. Both novels share the two accounts but do they do so on equal terms? How did Hadley feel by way of McLain’s take on it and how did Hemingway express his feelings when he wrote about it?
6 Hemingway, a most noted writer of his time, lived and worked on AMF until 1961, leaving it unfinished. It was posthumously published by his 4th wife Mary Hemingway in 1964 and then restored in 2009. McLain published TPW in 2011. Do you think each novel complimented the other, or not? Do you think one novel over the other paid more or less tribute to Hadley over Hemingway? If so, whose version of the accounts do you better accept? Consider especially Hemingway’s chapters ”The Pilot Fish and the Rich” and “Nada y Pues Nada” (Nothing is for nothing….that was part of his original introduction in the 1964 publication of AMF) and where he generally blames Pauline for the breakup and not himself.
7 Did reading and comparing both novels provide a better reading experience for you? Did it indeed give you that “he said, she said” experience? Would you want to do more comparison readings? If so, what would they be?
Ex: The Grapes of Wrath vs The Worst Hard Times
To Kill A Mockingbird vs The Help
A MOVEABLE FEAST BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
Discussion questions from www.Litlovers.com
1. What do you make of Hemingway's remark in his Preface: If the reader prefers, this may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact. What is he saying? Is he suggesting little of none of his memoir is true? (Don't worry if you're not sure: no one is—the line is a bit of a puzzle.)
2. Given his later renown and personal excesses (alcoholism, braggadocio and bluster, womanizing, meanness), what do you make of this young Hemingway? How would you describe him? Is he a likable? Admirable?
3. What was the relationship between Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, as described in A Moveable Feast? Where do you see the fault lines of their marriage? What part did horse racing play? Some have surmised that Hadley was the one woman (wife) he truly loved. What happened?
4. Talk about Hemingway's depictions of the famous literary characters in his Paris circle of friends. Whom do you find most interesting? What does he say, for instance, about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald? Some readers have found his observations (even his treatment) cruel; others see Hemingway as honest if acerbic. What do you think?
5. Which episodes do you find particularly funny—perhaps the luncheon incident with Ford Madox Ford? Or Ezra Pound? Or the trip to Lyons with Fitzgerald?
6. Writing from a distance of some 30 years, Hemingway paints a beauty, even glamour, in being poor and hungry...in Paris...at that moment. Why does this seem to have been such a happy time for him? What lends this work its twilight nostalgia?
7. Talk about the writing ritual Hemingway describes when he was struggling to write his first volume of short stories and his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. What kind of discipline and commitment does it take to persevere when his stories were returned by the publishers. In his final years Hemingway's talent had fallen off, and he found himself unable to create a great novel. Does that knowledge affect how you view his vigor during those early years?
8. In the last chapter of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway refuses to accept responsibility for the failure of his marriage, painting himself almost as a victim of Pauline's machinations. How do you feel about Hemingway's explanation?
9.Continuing with Question #8: This original account of Hemingway's betrayal was heavily edited by his fourth wife, Mary, who some surmise may have had a reason for the particular shape the chapter took.
But a newly expanded and altered edition was issued in 2009 by Hemingway's grandson. In the new version the final chapter differs—Hemingway admits his culpability in betraying Hadley. Does knowing this change things, does it alter your answer to Question #8?
10. Have you read any of Hemingway's novels or short stories (which some scholars consider his finest writing)? If so, does reading A Moveable Feast affect how you read his fiction? If you have not other Hemingway works, does this book inspire you to do so?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
THE PARIS WIFE BY PAULA McLAIN
Discussion questions from www.randomhouse.com
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