Wandering in circles around the library often leads me to pick up titles I recognize. The Sun Also Rises was on my long-term To Read list because it’s by Ernest Hemingway, so I checked it out after I noticed it chilling under “FIC Hem.”
Minor spoilers follow.
Jake Barnes, a young man living in Paris after World War I, spends most of his free time with his fellow American expatriates. He’s in love with the Lady Brett Ashley, but knows they can never have a relationship. From Paris to the bullfighting rings of Spain, Jake and his companions travel across Europe to drink away their days and nights in an exhausting frenzy.
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a personal look at the life of disillusioned Americans recovering from the experience of war; this novel helped cement Hemingway as one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century.
This was my second Hemingway read, the first being The Old Man and the Sea, and I liked The Sun Also Rises considerably less. I didn’t end up with a connection to any of the characters, but that is likely because I'm not the intended audience. I'm not an expatriate, I didn't live through a World War, and I'm not struggling with the loss of my manhood.
About halfway through the novel, there was a line that went something like this: “We drank and talked. And then we drank some more. And then called for more wine.” That’s essentially all of the action of this novel. Add in some bullfighting and I think that’s a better summary than what I wrote above. Trust me, I’m not hating on all the wine but it made for some very redundant reading.
My favorite part of the novel was when Jake and Bill went on a side trip before making it to the bullfighting festival. They spent a few days fishing, walking, and enjoying the outdoors. It was a slow section to read but it was a lot less of constant drinking in various cafes so it stood out to me. Jake was away from Brett and I thought he seemed happier in those pages than he normally did.
I didn’t like Brett when she left Michael, or had her little vacation with Robert. Both of those were despicably low of her and a cheater’s a cheater, no matter what country you’re in. However, when she ran away from the bullfighter...I didn’t really blame her for that one. He was trying to tell her how to grow her hair. That’s just not acceptable. Run away, Lady Brett. Otherwise, she was kind of a horrible person, leading all these men along and never showing any remorse when they were upset with her. Sure, the war was hard on her too, but it’s how you rise to challenges that shows what kind of person you are. Brett coasted; she didn’t rise.
Hemingway painted a realistic picture of the empty, monotonous lives of the Lost Generation. I can completely understand why this book struck such a chord when it was written. Some people say it's Hemingway's greatest work, but for me it missed the mark.
I truly enjoy Hemingway’s writing style and prose but this went on for too long. I rate it 2.5 out of 5. I’m still looking forward to For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms, but so far The Old Man and the Sea is my favorite Hemingway.