The Big Read travels to 1920s Paris
Paula McLain, author of this year's Big Read selection, will discuss her book and her motivation for writing it when she visits Ashton Place in Willowbrook on May 3. | Photo by Stephen Cutri
Updated: March 17, 2012 8:09AM
This year’s Big Read is more than a chance to enjoy a good book. It’s an opportunity to experience Paris as it was nearly a century ago.
“The author puts you in 1920s Paris,” said Melissa Doornbos, librarian at Downers Grove Public Library and a member of the committee that chose the book for the eighth annual Big Read.
Each year the Big Read invites readers not only to enjoy a great book, but to experience a variety of programming inspired by that book.
“This one lends itself to all sorts of programming,” Doornbos said of The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.
It tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage, through the voice of his first wife, Hadley Richardson.
The 30 programs, scheduled throughout the 10 participating libraries, include evenings of live jazz, wine tastings, the chance to learn the Charleston and Foxtrot, as well as plenty of opportunities to talk about McLain’s novel.
All are free and open to the public, although registration is required for many.
Debbie Wordinger, head of adult services at the Indian Prairie Library and chairman of the Big Read Committee, said The Paris Wife will appeal to a wide audience, men included.
“Hemingway is the man’s man of all fiction writers,” she said.
Its universal appeal was one of the many reasons that Wordinger had The Paris Wife at the top of her Big Read list.
“It was one I was pushing for,” she said.
In addition to groups that will discuss The Paris Wife, the Big Read will also invite readers to discuss two of Hemingway’s greatest novels — The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast.
Hemingway’s ties certainly weren’t all in Paris. The Big Read will explore his Chicago connection with discounted admission to the Ernest Hemingway Museum and Birthplace Home in Oak Park throughout March. Those who show a library card from one of the Big Read’s 10 participating libraries — Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lisle, Thomas Ford, Westmont, and Woodridge — will save $1.
The Hinsdale Public Library will pay tribute to the author’s Chicago ties through a photo exhibit. Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Time, is a traveling exhibit organized by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., in collaboration with The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. The exhibit will be open during normal library hours in March and April.
Wordinger said a highlight of this year’s Big Read will be a visit from the author herself.
McLain will speak about her book and career when she visits Ashton Place in Willowbrook on May 3.
A full schedule of Big Read events is available at participating libraries and at thebigread.org. Copies of The Paris Wife are available at participating libraries, and several area bookstores, including Barbara’s Bookstore in Burr Ridge, are offering the novel at a discount.