Matt's Reviews > A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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Apr 26, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, world-war-i

A Farewell to Arms sort of gives you the inkling that Hemingway's death will probably involve a shotgun.

It's just that sad. Front to back, this is one of the more mournful novels I've read. It's about Henry, an ambulance driver in World War I. He is wounded and falls in love with Catherine, a nurse. They exchange odd banter. They fall in love in love during a summer in Milan (but who wouldn't?). He knocks Catherine up, then returns to the front. Unfortunately for him, he is fighting with Italians, and, as the Italians are known to do, he is soon in full retreat. (I don't know why the French get such a bad rap, the Italians haven't won a war since sacking Carthage). Henry is captured by military police and in danger of being executed, but he manages to escape. He reunites with Catherine and, inexplicably, ends up living with her in Switzerland. Things are idyllic for awhile. The lazy, languid life reminiscent of The Sun Also Rises.

Then, of course, life intervenes.

The end is tragic. Heartbreaking. The writing is brilliant, such as in Hemingway's famous line about how the world breaks us all:

We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.


There's no cynicism here, just bitterness. It's prototypical Hemingway. The sparseness and terseness interspersed with long, emotion-laden sentences. I place this in the middle of For Whom the Bell Tolls, which ends badly but is full of passion and love, and The Sun Also Rises, which is like an early 20th century The Real World.

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Quotes Matt Liked

Ernest Hemingway
“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


Reading Progress

02/21 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2)




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Steve I've recently been rereading some books I read years ago, and this is one of them. A beautiful, but tragic, book. The shotgun thing, yeah. I picked up that signal more than once during a recent rereading of his short stories.


message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Adamache I am curious as to why you think they inexplicably end up in Switzerland. I thought that was explained pretty well.


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