Helynne's Reviews > The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
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Sep 02, 2016

really liked it
Read from September 05 to 09, 2011

The expatriot American writers, poets, painters, musicians,etc., who hung out in Paris in the 1920s were an innovative and talented bunch. But they were a somewhat sad lot as well. Hemingway’s first novel is a semi-autobiographical look at these 30-something people’s desperate search for meaning in life through a hedonistic, booze-soaked chase from place to place in France and Spain. His story makes it easy to see why these folks were called the “lost generation.” (In his memoir, A Moveable Feast,, Hemingway explains how Gertrude Stein first coined that term.) Their late-Romantic-post-modern-pre-existential self-destruction is dizzying to observe. The action swirls around Jake Barnes, a journalist originally from Kansas City (as was Hemingway himself), who suffered an injury in World War I that apparently has left him impotent. (Hemingway, through first-person narrator Jake, is very discreet about the details. His only explanation is that while Jake was in the hospital in Milan, an Italian officer visited him and said, “Che mal fortuna,” and now Jake just tries not to think about it). This is hard, though, when the woman Jake has always loved, British socialite Brett Ashely, keeps reappearing in his life. Brett loves Jake as well, but she is simply too highly sexed and too high on life in general to live with someone who cannot perform. (In the course of this story, Brett goes through three lovers—her Scottish fiancé Michael, American novelist Robert Cohn, and a Pamplona bullfighter 15 years her junior). Jake’s other friends are mostly writers at various levels of success and angst. Every activity of the group is laced with stops at cafés and inns for alcohol—lots and lots of alcohol—from France with wine, beer, and liqueur, to Spain where the French Pernod turns into the real thing—absinthe. This, of course, is abused by Jake until it seriously messes with his head. The story culminates in Hemingway’s signature adventure—a festival in Pamplona, Spain, where daring fools run with the bulls turned loose in the streets. Afterwards, everyone watches the bullfights in the ring. The prose describing the bullfights is the most eloquent in Hemingway’s otherwise sparse writing style that progresses largely in clipped dialogue. I read this novel hoping for some vivid flavor of the bohemian life of Paris and other parts of France, and I was not disappointed. I would have hoped for a little more plot and a more satisfying ending, but I realize that Hemingway was less concerned here about story telling than he was about describing a certain ambiance and mind-set, and here he truly delivers.

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09/02 marked as: read

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