Farewell Mr Hemingway?

HemingwayNumber 14 proved a rather unlucky number for me in the Classics Club spin because it meant I had to read Farewell to Arms. Now Hemingway is not an author I have had a good experience with in the past having twice tried, but failed, to get further than the first 50 pages of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

I’m now on page 50 of Farewell to Arms, so getting close to the point at which if a book hasn’t gripped me, I decide whether to ditch it. Sometimes it happens even earlier (I think the watershed moment in The House at Riverton came around page 10).

So far it’s hard to see why Farewell to Arms is deemed to be such a classic, lauded as the best American novel to emerge from World War I. The back cover blurb on my edition describes it as an unforgettable story’ of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his relationship with a beautiful English nurse, a “love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion.”

There’s been little sign of that passion as yet. Instead the prevailing mood is one of detachment.  For most of the first 50 pages we learned more about the deployment of troops and vehicles to different parts of the mountain and the men’s off duty visits to bars and brothel, then we did about the fighting itself.

This novel is considered by many to be the best of Hemingway’s work which must indicate that something will happen soon otherwise its never going to pass my 70-pages watershed.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on March 28, 2013, in Classics Club and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I’ve never read anything by Hemingway. I know him as a big game hunting, drinking and smoking old white man – what can he possibly have to say that I will care about? I know this is shallow and I will read him at some point. It just takes a lot of self-persuasion first!

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  2. This is another book that I am reluctant to write about. I was not ecstatic about it, but I couldn’t get why it’s so revered. My Classics Spin book is The Red Badge of Courage. I was not too crazy about it so it’s a good thing that it’s very slim.

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  3. I think I read something by Hemmingway once -I don’t think I liked it much. Number 14 was luckier for me in the classics spin – I just read Taking Chances by Molly Keane.

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  4. I shall give it a go Barbara and see if admiring the minimalism works as a strategy….

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  5. I have not read Farewell to Arms since high school. Then for a few years I read quite a bit of Hemingway and taught a few of the short stories. He is not among my favorite authors, but I think the trick to reading him is to admire the minimalism — and what’s left unsaid among the characters as well as the little that is said.
    But then maybe you just don’t want to bother with either — what’s said and what’s not. Close the cover and you don’t have to.

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  6. Yeah, I don’t think you want to finish that one. Just saying. 🙂

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  7. I had to study ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ for ‘O’ Level and have never been able to read Hemingway since. This may have been to do with the teaching but I think it was more a reaction to the style of writing.

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