Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I now can see why everyone says that Hemingway was inspired to write this novel after serving in World War I.  The unabashed drawing on the author's own life makes the parallels so obvious that a blind man could see it.  Hemingway, like his protagonist, was an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross on the Italian front, was likewise injured and likewise fell in love with the nurse who cared for him while he was convalescing.

We are introduced to his main character, Lt. Henry, just as things are coming to an end in World War I.  Lt. Henry has seen lots of very bad things but wants to continue fighting because that is the only way the ugly badness that he has seen will be eradicated. Other characters feel very much opposed to the war and so the spare dialog that ensues captures the very strong, complicated emotions felt by all sides and conveys them in a style that Hemingway was notorious for and popularized immensely.

I loved how Hemingway glorified the brotherhood and bonds that the soldiers on the battlefield had among each other. The shared experiences of these men drew them together in ways that Hemingway portrayed amazingly well. The affection of these "war brothers" is so palpable you can feel the affection coming off the pages. Lt. Henry meanwhile can never seem to catch a break.  He endures so much hardship in such a short period of time. It's a tremendous book.

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