Thursday, February 17, 2011

I finally read A Farewell to Arms. And I'm not sure how I feel about it.

The Husband has been asking me to read A Farewell to Arms for a few years now.  He loved the book, thought it was great, and thought I would enjoy it too. Well, I finally read it, and I don't think "enjoy" is the right word. It took a while to get into, but was much easier to understand what was going on than For Whom the Bell Tolls, another Hemingway novel that I've tried unsuccessfully to read on several occasions.

The rest of my review will contain spoilers, because I think I might be the last person on earth to read this book, but here are some random thoughts.

  • Good GOD did Lt. Henry like to drink. So did most everyone in the book, for that matter.
  • I need to get me one of those relatives who will let me write bank drafts to fund my lifestyle.
  • I wanted to slap Catherine throughout most of the book.  She was the biggest doormat ever, and I don't recall her standing up for herself even once in the book, except maybe to assert her decision to get married only after she was thin again. 
  • The war scenes in this book were thankfully nondescript.  I appreciate that Hemingway didn't get into the grisly details of the war. Then again, Hemingway doesn't go into details about anything, so this shouldn't be a surprise.  I was thankful that i didn't have to read about a lot of gore, missing limbs, etc.  I'm not a fan of war stories for this reason.
  • I didn't fully understand what was going on in the war.  This is probably my fault because history and geography are my two worst subjects.  A decent knowledge base in both would have been helpful, I think, for me to understand the tactical and strategic parts of the war. I was mostly lost until I realized that the Italians were going to shoot him because they thought he was a German wearing an Italian uniform, or because they thought he was an officer who abandoned his regiment. See - still confused.
  • The ending of this book sucked. Thanks to The Husband spoiling it for me years ago, I knew basically what happened, but there were so many loose ends that weren't tied up.  What happened to the priest? Did Rinaldi have syphilis or not? Maddening. And then, (spoiler alert) to kill off Catherine and the baby like that and just abruptly end the book with Lt. Henry lost and alone in Switzerland? Maddening.  The Husband says that's just classic Hemingway. 
I guess I'm glad I finished it, but I'm not a fan of the sparse description and I didn't fall in love with any of the main characters...  And quite frankly, the story wasn't fantastic.  The second half of it was much more gripping than the first, and I was interested enough to finish it, so that's something, but I don't know, it was a war book, with lots of drinking, a love story, an unplanned pregnancy, a frantic escape from authorities, and then tragic death. 

Grade: Overall, I'm giving it a C.  But only because it's Hemingway; his fame makes me want to boost his grade a little.  If some unknown author had written it, I don't think I'd have gotten past page two.


Anonymous said...

I read this book in high school, then had to do a parody of it. I was actually just thinking about it today. I hated that book so much, that eight years later, I still don't have any desire to drink vermouth.

Emily said...

Oh, also, Hemingway had a way of making his heroines either angels or devils. His angels are doormats who worship their men, or these terrible villainous, evil bitches who are out to do nothing more than destroy the lives of those around them. Again, I dislike Hemingway, his economy of words, his drinking habits, and the way he viewed women. I'll stick with F. Scott Fitzgerald if I want to read the work of an expat, kthxbai.

Monnik said...

I don't even know what vermouth is! :)

Hm. I've never read F. Scott Fitzgerald. Might have to check into him. I'm with you, not a fan of Hemingway, although, The Old Man and the Sea wasn't terrible...

Hemingway is definitely a man's writer. And I don't plan to waste more reading time on him.

Emily - your description of the evil bitches who are out to destroy those around them reminds me of one of the characters in For Whom the Bell Tolls. I don't remember the specifics because I didn't finish that one, but it was the wife of some drunk guy. Shocker.


Little Miss Sunshine State said...

I pretty much agree with all of your observations. I have my Dad's book of all of Hemingway's short stories and maybe one of these days I'll dive into it.