If visiting an author house isn’t on your itinerary this summer, do the next best thing—take to the page. These two novels not only feature classic scribes as characters, they use literary landmarks as backdrops. Visits to Hemingway’s Paris haunts, like Les Deux Magots cafe (below left), and Flannery O’Connor’s rural Georgia farm (right) come wrapped up with intriguing storylines. For some of us, that makes for the perfect summer read.
The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
Ernest Hemingway’s closest companion during his now-famous years in Paris in the 1920s was his first wife, Hadley Richardson, who makes brief appearances in his memoir A Moveable Feast. Hadley was 28 when she met Hemingway at a mutual friend’s party in Chicago. Nearly a decade older than the aspiring writer, pretty yet plain, educated but far from worldly, she seems an unlikely match for the handsome, charming, dynamic Hemingway. After a whirlwind courtship the two marry and set sail for Europe. In The Paris Wife, Paula McClain recounts their years in Jazz Age Paris mingling with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald before their marriage comes apart.
A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
Stricken with lupus at age twenty-five, Flannery O’Connor left New York City and returned to her family’s ancestral farm, Andalusia, in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she devoted herself to writing and raising peacocks, swans, chickens, and other birds. In Ann Napolitano’s novel, O’Connor’s quiet existence at Andalusia is broken up when she strikes up a friendship with the married Melvin Whiteson. He came to Milledgeville to start a new chapter in his life, but when he meets Flannery—who despite her illness is vibrantly alive—he starts to question the choices he has made.
[photos © Paris Tourist Office, David Lefranc; Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation]