All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Sunday, January 24, 2021

#HistoryofWhomYouKnow #ReadThis #AFarewellToArms by #ErnestHemingway @simonschuster

We have simple taste. We only like the best so for our 12 year anniversary, we celebrate with ERNEST HEMINGWAY.  No one today can compare.

Previously on Whom You Know, Ernest Hemingway Earned Our Highest Recommendation with The Sun Also Rises:
We have already told you that PBS has a Hemingway special coming up:
We watched it, twice.

But as always, THE BOOKS ARE BETTER.
There's nothing like the real thing baby and A Farewell to Arms is no sophomore act.  This edition includes the author's 1948 introduction (a very good year!) early drafts and all the alternative endings and is again introduced by son and grandson Patrick and Sean.  Though Hemingway himself tells us it was written in many places he achieves a high level of consistency throughout the text: he's already the consummate American novelist (but Fitzgerald is still the best.)

Everything old is new again and first responders are all the rage now, n'est pas?  Hemingway wrote for you with this in mind.  The protagonist here is the fetching American Ambulance driver Frederic Henry who meets a stunning nurse, Catherine Barkley who is the epitome of good-natured.  If you know Hemingway's biography you know he was over in Italy during the first world war and of course he preached the gospel of write what you know, like all great writers.  We are not pacifists at Whom You Know and believe in peace through strength, and have a high appreciation of our military and veterans and believe this group in particular will love this novel.  

Again, though it takes place in Europe it is distinctly American.  Hemingway gets everything right from the nuances between the English and the Scottish in Barkley versus Ferguson and paints the landscapes of Europe in the exact gorgeous hues when appropriate and the garish horrors of war in contrast.  For all the daft Americans out there you should know that Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are ALL DIFFERENT.  And each of them has counties that are different from one another too such as Cork and Kerry, hugely different.

In The Sun Also Rises we noted how fabulous the banter is throughout, and that is also true in A Farewell to Arms.  The platinum conversation engages the reader to such a level you feel as if you are 200% there even though it happened a hundred years ago.  Understatement of the century is to say that Hemingway had a way with words but what we liked here is that he even invented some: we applaud "winefully" on the great page of 11 as a notable Hemingwayism.

His descriptions are right on target: "The wine was bad but not dull.  It took the enamel off your teeth and left it on the roof of your mouth." (p.33)  As you know we only publish on our positive experiences but we quite concur: that is what bad wine tastes like!  But of course we love wine: good wine.  And we love love: A Farewell to Arms is a classic love story even more than a war story.  We will not give away the plot lines but you absolutely should read this before you watch the PBS special because you know who watched that twice and there are spoilers in there for this we did have an idea of what was going to happen.

Among the greatest descriptions is found on page 47 where he recounts just what can happen when you are innocently eating a piece of cheese.  The writing is tight.  Razor. Punctuated.  Gripping.  Effective.  "The drops fell very slowly, as they fall from an icicle after the sun has gone.  It was cold in the car in the night as the road climbed.  At the post on the top they took the stretcher out and put another in and we went on." (p. 53).  The dreams of Frederic envelop the reader into the night not allowing one to put the book down.  And there are nightmares as well of the same consequence.

The relationships with the hospital staff when Frederic is a patient is gold and we love the drinks with the doctor.  Characters are tops and Count Greffi is one we'd like to see at a gala in New York.  We won't give away the plot, but if you liked Breakfast at Tiffany's wait until Breakfast at Dawn in Switzerland.  Oh the merits of winter sport!

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is Highly Recommended by Whom You Know.

The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse.

The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway’s frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto—of lines of fired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized—is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was thirty years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway.

About Ernest Hemingway 

Ernest Hemingway did more to influence the style of English prose than any other writer of his time. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established him as one of the greatest literary lights of the 20th century. His classic novella The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He died in 1961.

Back to TOP