My Second Hemingway

I finished book #44 today, and it was (obviously) by Ernest Hemingway. I read The Sun Also Rises, and I’ll be up front right away in saying that I didn’t enjoy it as much as For Whom the Bell Tolls. I don’t know if that’s an unpopular opinion but it’s just how I felt.

One huge difference between TSAR and FWTBT is the length, so that’s one reason I can think of for preferring (or at least being able to get more attached to the characters in) FWTBT, but who knows. I plan to do some research after this post and I’m sure there’s a ton of imagery and crazy themes that I missed completely.

So this novel came from the perspective of Jake Barnes, who I was kind of picturing looking like a young Colin Firth for whatever reason. Mmm. Jake gallivants first around Paris, and then around Spain, watching the bull-fighting with his… friends? That is part of the book that kind of threw me.

Barnes spends the majority of time with people he doesn’t seem to like – and who don’t really seem to like each other. I guess that’s sometimes what friendship ends up being, and all of these characters are tragically disillusioned and Lost (with a capital L,) but it made it hard for me to get pumped to read about these characters getting together.

There was Lady Brett, who clearly just should have been with Jake. Why didn’t those two, the only two who seem to genuinely and (somewhat) unselfishly love each other, get together? That frustrated me. And I’m sure that’s part of the whole Lost theme, but still. They both could have been so much happier.

Then there was Bill (who I was mostly okay with), Robert Cohn (who sucked and was in lust with Lady Brett), and Mike (a reckless, crude, mean alcoholic who was engaged (and ultimately probably ruined by) Brett.) (So many parenthesis.)

So yeah, all I really got from this book was that this group of people came together for really no reason besides convenience, maybe. They celebrated the fiesta, drank heavily, all sort of fought over Lady Brett in weird, passive ways, made reckless decisions, and probably would’ve had a much better time had they been with other people. Or at least by themselves.

They were all pretty miserable, and it made me pretty miserable to think about. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t get into it, but I also didn’t really see any of that incredible writing that drew me to FWTBT in earlier this year.  Maybe I’ll reread it down the road in a different state of mind, and it will change my life. For now, though, I’m honestly just kind of relieved it’s done and I can read something else.

Hemingway does know how to write a violent bull-fight, though. Those got pretty intense. ◊

‘It’s funny,’ I said. ‘It’s very funny. And it’s a lot of fun, too, to be in love.’ ‘Do you think so?’ her eyes looked flat again. ‘I don’t mean fun that way. In a way it’s an enjoyable feeling.’ ‘No,’ she said. ‘I think it’s hell on earth.'”

– page 35, poor, tragic Lady Brett.

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