Szplug's Reviews > A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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's review
Mar 03, 2010

really liked it

There really is much to enjoy in Hemingway's contribution to the relatively meagre shelf of First World War literature: the intriguing depiction of the effects and culture of war in the little-known Italian theatre; the dread conveyed when the stalemated Austrian forces are augmented by the mighty Germans; the stunningly depicted retreat across the Po plain, culminating in the bridge crossing where officers are being separated from the fleeing, crowding mass of soldiers to be lined up and shot; and the clipped pace and no-nonsense manner—the style that Hemingway has become renowned for—in which all of it is put to paper. However, the concluding set-piece—the doomed love affair between American volunteer ambulance driver and British volunteer convalescent nurse—though an integral part of the story, just did not ring true to me; despite the fervent and repeated declarations of love breathlessly cast back and forth between them, Hemingway could not convince me that these two ciphers were even capable of love, let alone helplessly caught-up in its stochastic buffets.

I read this a long time ago, and it's possible that this was actually Hemingway's intention—to show the futility of love, even sanity, in such a hatred-and-madness-soaked environment—or, perforce, that it would tend towards hastening a physical attraction through compressed time, deluding both parties that love had been found where loneliness and unease had previously reigned—that his benumbed and frightened characters would perforce be robotic even in the grip of that least mechanical of passions—but if so, it was too subtle for me to detect. Still, I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish, and it remains my favorite out of the handful of the Great White Hunter's output that I have read.
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