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.