Tuesday, January 26, 2010

REVIEW: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I have to admit it, I don't always GET Ernest Hemingway. The stripped-back writing style he uses often distracts me and I generally have to walk away halfway through one of his novels and come back to it so I can fully appreciate his prose and the characters he creates. And once I do that, I find it easier to continue. While I find the blatant anti-Semitisim throughout the book difficult to read, I did enjoy this book. After a six month break though.

I started The Sun Also Rises last summer. I made the mistake of trying to rush into it too quickly. I don't think Hemingway can be rushed, I actually missed a major detail the first time around and had to re-read for things to make sense. The Sun Also Rises focuses on a group of expatriates living in Paris after the destruction caused by WWI, as they drink and sleep around and lead generally purposeless lives. They then head off to Spain and fish and watch the bull-fighting.

At first glance, I thought, why should I care? These people aren't hugely sympathetic characters, drinking their lives away, saying things like 'swell' and 'darling' too often for my tastes. But once I understood more of the characters and had read further into the book I realised that my emotional investment in these people had crept up on me out of nowhere. I'm still surprised.

The main focus of the novel surrounds the main character, Jake Barnes and the woman he loves, Brett Ashley. Because of a wound sustained during WWI, Jake is impotent and though Jake and Brett love each other, this lack of physical consummation means that they are unable to have a relationship together. Instead, Brett flits between men but these relationships lack an emotional connection and soon end. This trip to Spain sees Brett surrounded by Jake, a fiance, and a former lover and things start to heat up when Brett falls for a teenage bull-fighter, Pedro.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I'll definitely seek out other Hemingway novels. But not in any great hurry, as the endings of his books always seem just that little bit too sad for me.

Read for: 1% well-read challenge, 100+ book challenge.

Have you read this book? What do you think of Ernest Hemingway - love him? hate him? Do you have a favourite Hemingway novel?


  1. I keep thinking why his name is so familiar to me. I am wondering if when I was on my honeymoon in Mexico, I visited his home. It sounds familiar - will have to look it up now.

    Haven't ever read any of his books yet!

  2. This is my favorite novel in the whole world. You are right that the characters and their lifestyle aren't very sympathetic, but the story is so well told, it has such great literary symmetry (country vs. city, bulls/steers/Jake's wound/Pedro's virility, etc.), and the themes are so thoroughly woven into the narrative. I think it's just perfect.

    I don't know if you re-read, or if you like to read up on a book so you have an idea what the academics think, but this one is worth a second look, if you're so inclined. It might grow on you.

  3. I have yet to read Hemingway, but I have a copy of A Moveable Feast, which came highly recommended by a friend.

  4. I've read this one and it is the only Hemingway I've read. I could not stand this book.. I'm not really sure why, maybe because I was so young when I read it. But because I have such distaste for this book, I could never bring myself to read any of his others..

  5. I don't care for Ernest Hemingway - as you say, there's the anti-Semitism, and then I never like how he portrays women, and I just generally find him unbearably smug. I read this one in an American lit class at university and never engaged with it at all. (Alas!) I'm glad you enjoyed it though!

  6. I just read this book as well and did a recap of what I thought of it. It is good to know that you didn't necessarily "get it" at first either. It's pretty much the same way I felt until I did some research about it afterwards.


  7. Bethany - yeah. I did a little research as well. It's nice to see that smarter people than me have read it and spread the knowledge :)


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