Hemingway’s Cat is missing. I felt drawn to The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s novel written from the perspective of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, because A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s own memoir of Roaring Twenties Paris, has passages that remain indelible to me today —- though I read it long ago. One is mentioned in the blurb of The Paris Wife: Hemingway returns after several days in a love nest with Pauline, who becomes his second wife, and sees his first wife Hadley, standing with his son, waiting for him at the train station, and wishes he had died before he loved anyone but her.
And Hemingway describes waking to a Paris morning, sharing breakfast with his son, nicknamed Bumby, and his cat, nicknamed F. Puss, and calls them good company. Denouncing as ignorant anyone who states a cat will suck a baby’s breath, Hemingway vividly portrays F. Puss as Bumby’s babysitter, guarding him in the crib. I envisioned a purring, fluffy cat lulling Bumby to sleep.
So I was part way through The Paris Wife, and feeling transported to 1920s Paris with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and John Dos Passos, among the people the Hemingways knew, when I thought, Where is the cat? Surely the cat entered Hadley’s consciousness. I kept reading this beautifully written book expecting at least a line for F. Puss —- maybe watching Parisian birds from a window, grooming a paw after sharing Papa’s meal, or nuzzling Bumby in his crib. I finished the book. Hemingway’s cat is missing.
Did I notice because I love cats? Or because I know Hemingway loved cats? Probably both. My book, Splendid Summer, the first of a series set in 1920s San Diego, has a magical white cat, Tatania. And I know Hemingway adored his cats. And for F. Puss to be remembered so many cats later, when Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast, decades after the Roaring Twenties, suggests F. Puss was a special cat and an inherent part of the years Hemingway recalls as “very happy”.
I wish I knew Paula McLain. I would love to congratulate her on a brilliant book. And I want to ask, Where is the cat?