Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms
© 1929 Ernest Hemingway
355 pages

Beyond The Old Man and the Sea and his short story “The Snows of Kilamanjaro”, I haven’t read very much of Hemingway at all.  A Farewell to Arms seemed like a good place to start, being the novel that made Hemignway’s name as a writer.   Set in Italy during the Great War,  Farewell  combines wartime romance and disillusion.  It’s not a war novel in the same way that Jeff Shaara writes a war novel; the war sets the stage and constantly presses in on the characters, but our narrator – an American serving in the Italian army as an ambulance driver —  is rarely in combat,.  After a  slow beginning, the story picked up steam when Henry and his compatriots were shelled in the presumed safety of their dugout.   By the time Henry returns to the front, the war is going south for Italy, and the retreat is made more  dangerous by Italian troops who accuse any straggling retreaters of desertion, and shoot them.  Henry and the nurse with whom he falls in love both have to make tough decisions. 

A Farewell to Arms is considerably more interesting to me than The Sun Also Rises (which I’ve been halfway through for ..er, two years), and while  I didn’t know how it would end, I wasn’t too much surprised at the nature of the finish – which is consistent with the other Hemingway stories I’ve read.  There was humor here, something I’ve not yet encountered with Hemingway, although I don’t know if it’s intentional.  The entire exchange Henry has at a border crossing – his repeated assertion that he enjoys The Winter Sport, and the guards’ argument between themselves as to what constitutes Winter Sport and what town they would recommend he visit to  best enjoy The Winter Sport —    border on the good kind of absurdism.    I think I’ll remember the story, at any rate,  and that’s always a good sign for a novel, even it’s definitely not a favorite.  

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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12 Responses to Farewell to Arms

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is on my Definitely Read List….. although I’ll need to BUY it first!

  2. Mudpuddle says:

    i read a lot of H when i was young… i think i liked this although it wasn’t my favorite… sometime in the last forty years i developed a distaste for his writing, though… something to do with his take-no-prisoners style, i think: super-macho perspectives are unpleasant, now…
    what’s with the 8.5 earthquake happening in the hallway?

    • Smellincoffee says:

      I’m not altogether sure what you mean about the earthquake…experiencing turbulence? We’re bracing for a hurricane here..

      • Mudpuddle says:

        when typing a comment, the background picture shakes up and down: i just found it curious; i should have been more specific…

    • @mudpuddle: Hmmm…..I haven’t noticed that myself, although the screen does shift to add the box when I click “Reply”. When I’m leaving an initial comment the box is already there. Is it constant for you?

      • Mudpuddle says:

        it was the first couple of times i arrived… now i think it’s limited to when i key a box… not an issue; probably shouldn’t have mentioned it

  3. Marian says:

    This sounds promising. 🙂 My impressions of Hemingway have been pretty mixed so far, but I will be encountering him again one of these days (For Whom the Bell Tolls is on my Classics Club list).

    • Good luck to you with that one! I’m going to be finishing The Sun Also Rises within the week, though it will probably get more of “There I finished it” type of comment than an actual review.

  4. jaybird says:

    I get it with The Sun Also Rises. It definitely didn’t make me fall in love with Hemingway or his writing, I found it bland and pretentious. I do appreciate some of his short stories though, that’s when his voice is more profound to me.

    • I don’t care for modernism in general, either in architecture or literature, but I did enjoy The Old Man and the Sea! Perhaps his style is more appropriate for some stories than others.

  5. A pattern is developing here, I have never read a Hemingway novel either!

    • Well, that’s the last Hemingway for a bit! On to Catch 22. If you want to read a Hemingway, I’d start with Old man and the Sea. I read it in eighth grade, and again thereafter. It’s the smallest, easily!

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