Full disclosure: I’m not that big of a fan of Ernest Hemingway’s writing, but I find him a fascinating person. Everyone Behaves Badly is an intriguing and well written book about Hemingway in Paris in the 1920’s, and the lead-up to the writing and publication of The Sun Also Rises, his first novel. It’s a look into how ambitious Hemingway was in his desire to become a successful published author and how his style – spare, lean, direct, and the opposite of what was being published at the time – took the literary world by storm.
I’ve read other books about Hemingway, including The Paris Wife, which I also enjoyed, so I had an idea of what the Paris years were like. Everyone Behaves Badly filled in more of the details, especially about the friends and mentors (and other men’s wives, of course) Hemingway used in order to become successful. In addition to betraying his first wife (Hadley), by having a relationship with the woman who would become his second wife (Pauline), Hemingway betrayed his closest friends. He used their personalities and backgrounds to create the characters in The Sun Also Rises. And he was not kind when he created them.
Lesley Blume has done an excellent job distilling what must be mountains of information about this period in Hemingway’s life and presenting a portrait of a talented man who wanted to change the literary landscape with his new style. And did.