Paula McLain

{EN} The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

1. “No is the easiest word there is. Children learn to talk by saying no.”

2. “Let’s always tell each other the truth. We can choose that, can’t we?”

3. “After I was shot, when my head was still in pretty bad shape, a very wise Italian officer told me the only thing to really do for that kind of fear was get married.”
“So your wife would take care of you? That’s an interesting way to think about marriage.”
“I actually took it to mean that if I could take care of her—you, that is—I’d worry less about myself. But maybe it works both ways.”
“I’m counting on that,” I said.

4. “not everyone out in a storm wants to be saved.”

5. “How unbelievably naïve we both were that night. We clung hard to each other, making vows we couldn’t keep and should never have spoken aloud. That’s how love is sometimes. I already loved him more than I’d ever loved anything or anyone. I knew he needed me absolutely, and I wanted him to go on needing me forever.”

6. “The mattress was good, as it would be in France, where apparently everyone did everything in bed—eat, work, sleep, make lots of love.”

7. “Pound is the devil, bumptious and half crazed with talk of books and art.”
“I’ve met the devil,” Ernest said, finishing his glass of wine, “and he doesn’t give a damn about art.”

8. “Don’t tell readers what to think. Let the action speak for itself.”

9. “On and on, all day, and for the whole of the trip, Ernest studied maps and tried to match up what he saw in the countryside to what he remembered seeing years before. But nothing was the same. Fossalta, when we finally arrived, was worse than Schio because there wasn’t a single sign of ravage. The trenches and dugouts had vanished. The bombed houses and buildings had been changed out for new. When Ernest found the slope where he’d been wounded, it was green and unscarred and completely lovely. Nothing felt honest. Thousands of men had died here just a few years earlier, Ernest himself had bled here, shot full of shrapnel, and yet everything was clean and shiny, as if the land itself had forgotten everything.”

10. “the war in his head couldn’t be counted on any longer. Memory couldn’t be counted on. Time was unreliable and everything dissolved and died—even or especially when it looked like life. Like spring. All around us, the grass grew. Birds made a living racket in the trees. The sun beat down with promise. From that moment forward, Ernest would always hate the spring.”

11. “When we won, we had champagne, and sometimes when we lost, too, because we were happy to be there and be together, and what was money to us anyway? We never had enough to make a difference if we lost it.”

12. “Marriage could be such deadly terrain. In Paris, you couldn’t really turn around without seeing the result of lovers’ bad decisions. An artist given to sexual excess was almost a cliché, but no one seemed to mind. As long as you were making something good or interesting or sensational, you could have as many lovers as you wanted and ruin them all. What was really unacceptable were bourgeois values, wanting something small and staid and predictable, like one true love, or a child.”

13. “But that’s my beef with marriage. You suffer for his career. What do you get in the end?”
“The satisfaction of knowing he couldn’t do it without me.”

14. “The intensity bubbled up from a deep place in him and came into his face and his throat, and I saw the way he was connected to Ordóñez and the bullfight, and to life as it was happening, and I knew that I could hate him all I wanted for the way he was hurting me, but I couldn’t ever stop loving him, absolutely, for what he was.”

15. “I couldn’t tell him why his work was good and why it mattered to literature, that age-old conversation among writers and lovers of books.”

16. “Guilt won’t do it, you know. If you think you can make me feel worse than I’ve made myself feel, you’ll have to try much harder.”

17. “He and I had both grown up in households where the women ruled with iron fists, turning their husbands and their children into quivering messes. I knew I would never be that way, not at any price. I’d chosen my role as supporter for Ernest, but lately the world had tipped, and my choices had vanished.”

18. “If I gave him an ultimatum and said she couldn’t stay, I would lose him. If I got hysterical and made public scenes, it would just give him an excuse to leave me. All that was left for me was a terrible kind of paralysis, this waiting game, this heartbreak game.”

19. “No one you love is ever truly lost.”

20. “There are some who said I should have fought harder or longer than I did for my marriage, but in the end fighting for a love that was already gone felt like trying to live in the ruins of a lost city. I couldn’t bear it, and so I backed away—and the reason I could do it at all, the reason I was strong enough and had the legs and the heart to do it, was because Ernest had come along and changed me. He helped me see what I really was and what I could do. Now that I knew what I could bear, I would have to bear losing him.”

21. “The myth he was creating out of his own life was big enough to take it for a time—but under this, I knew he was still lost. That he slept with the light on or couldn’t sleep at all, that he feared death so much he sought it out wherever and however he could.”

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