A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

My Copy: 9781476764528 (image from amazon.com)

Just so you know, Hemingway fans may hate this review. Actually, Hemingway haters might hate it, too, because I can’t figure out how to describe this book…except that I couldn’t finish it.

I tried to for two weeks and only got through page 140. It’s not that long of a book, but it just couldn’t capture me, at least, not for long enough stretches to get farther in the text.

My past experience with Hemingway involves The Old Man and the Sea in Pre-AP English class, and that’s it. I didn’t hate it as far as I can remember, but like most things in English class that you’re forced to analyze to death for a grade, it becomes hard to appreciate in the long run.

As far as A Farewell to Arms goes, I suppose it has something different about it. I’m trying to work my way through early 20th century American literature, so maybe I’m not quite up on my education yet, but I can’t grasp what’s so great about this book.

Frankly, I think the very stilted dialogue just doesn’t sit well with me, and the character, Catherine, the narrator’s love interest, is beyond dull in my book. Maybe she’s the part that annoyed me the most and their relationship–whatever that was. She kept referring to herself as “a good girl” and vacillates between a depressed, clingy person and a very confident one.

I got fed up with the contrariness of the main characters, the simpering “do you love me” and “oh darling” moments in between the quiet ones, or the nonchalant, almost apathetic narrator.

I suppose that’s the part I couldn’t get–other than an itch in the pants, what did he see in this woman, and what did she see in him? And then characters popped in and out and for a book about a war, he sure seemed to have a lot of downtime.

Then again, there isn’t much written about the Italian campaign, at least in American history books, so my knowledge is limited there. I’ll probably find a few and review ’em in the next few years.

But I’m having a hard time describing A Farewell to Arms for what it is. The only reason I’d consider keeping this version of it is it’s the one with multiple early drafts and alternative endings. It’s a neat window into the creative process I’m glad they included.

The problem is, I can’t get invested enough in the story to finish the book. In which case, how would I really get the gist of how it all impacted the ending?

[Forehead, meet desk. Nice to meet you.]

Sad to say, I doubt I’ll get it in me to try and read this again and capitalize on that knowledge…at least, not now.

Just not my cup of tea yet, and there are many more on my shelf I could read and enjoy more right now.


Addendum: Sorry for so many book review posts in a short time–been getting called in to work last minute and not enough time to sleep, let alone write lately. Reading’s about all I’ve had time for the past few days. Hopefully I can write tomorrow and space out the book reviews a bit again.

2 thoughts on “A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      worth a shot–I think I’ll do that just to get the gist. I just don’t want to backtrack too much–it was painfully boring trying to read it. At least The Old Man and the Sea was short, so I could get through it without screaming (and the short, clipped speech worked well for a short, clipped work. Reading hundreds of pages of short, clipped dialogue in AFTA got painful).


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