Julie Christine's Reviews > A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
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it was amazing
bookshelves: classic, france-french-theme-setting, bio-autobio-memoir, best-of-2012, read-2012

If you haven't been to Paris, you just won't get A Moveable Feast...
If you aren't already a fan of Hemingway, don't bother reading A Moveable Feast

Look, I'm struggling to get a start on this review and those were the first two statements that popped into my head. I don't know if they are true. I don't know if they are fair. What I do know is this work - fiction, memoir, sketches, a polished diary - whichever of these it may be - wouldn't exist without Paris. Obviously, right? No, that's not what I mean. I mean Paris is to writers as Burgundy is to Pinot Noir. It's all about terroir - that sense of place, climate, geography, culture that shape the flavor and texture of a thing. You can make great wine out of pinot grown in Oregon, New Zealand, Chile - but it will never, ever approximate the glory of Burgundy. Writers can write with greatness anywhere in the world, but a writer in Paris - and goodness, a writer in the vintage years of the early-mid 1920's - is a singularly-blessed creature who may pour forth with words that change the world.

Hyperbole? Ah, well, I guess you've never been to Paris.

I bought a cheap, paperback copy of A Moveable Feast at Shakespeare and Company last winter. I'd spent the day retracing the steps of the Lost Generation through the 5eme and 6eme Arrondissements: the Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Rue Mouffetard, Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, La Place Contrescarpe, Rue Descartes, Quai des Grands-Augustins -- the haunts of Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford as they drank and smoked and wrote their way between the wars. Other than the now-phony tourist traps of Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore and the relocated Shakespeare and Company bookshop (opened in its current location at 37 rue de la Bûcherie in 1951 after the original shop was closed in 1941 during the Occupation of Paris), much is as I imagined it was in 1924. The light shines golden and bittersweet in the narrow streets, landlocked Parisians flock to chaises longues in the Luxembourg Gardens to soak up an unseasonably warm February sun, students at the Sorbonne crowd the coffee shops in between classes, smoking, flirting and speaking in a rapid-fire Parisian slang that I was hopeless to comprehend.

My paperback copy of A Moveable Feast is now dreadfully dog-eared. I have marked passage upon passage in which Hemingway talks about writing - he was so disciplined and therefore so productive - which weakened my knees: "I would stand and look out over the rooftops of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence, and go on from there."

or about Paris: "You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen."

or about wine "In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary... "

This is a collection of sketches of a writer as he remembers his happiest, purest days spent healing from the injuries and horrors of World War I, in love with a devoted wife and a round, sweet baby, being discovered by artists of influence and nurturing others through their own addictions and afflictions. Of course we know that Hemingway's own story does not end well. As he pens what will become the final paragraphs of A Moveable Feast many years later, he recognizes how fragile and temporary were those years: "But we were not invulnerable and that was the end of the first part of Paris, and Paris was never to be the same again although it was always Paris and you changed as it changed.... this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."

Perhaps the one true condition of enjoying this memoir is that one must be an incurable romantic. An affliction I bear with pride.
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Quotes Julie Christine Liked

Ernest Hemingway
“But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


Reading Progress

March 13, 2012 – Shelved
May 6, 2012 – Started Reading
May 6, 2012 – Shelved as: classic
May 6, 2012 – Shelved as: france-french-theme-setting
May 6, 2012 – Shelved as: bio-autobio-memoir
May 9, 2012 –
page 42
17.8% "Forty pages in & my paperback is already dog- eared in several places.EH took writing so seriously- his dedication & discipline extraordinary. Humbling. This opens in the streets & alleyways I haunted this winter. It is a glorious thing to follow EH's steps in my mind's eye. Paris is singular."
May 14, 2012 –
page 87
36.86% "I am ruining this copy by dog-earing pages and splitting the spine. I've declared it my "working copy". This gives me reason to purchase a lovely hard bound edition that I shall gaze at lovingly and caress tenderly. Yes, I'm enjoying the hell out of this book. Gertrude Stein was a bit of a snap, wasn't she?"
May 17, 2012 –
page 113
47.88% ""Monsieur Dunning est monté sur le toit et refuse catégoriquement de descendre.""
May 19, 2012 –
page 160
67.8% ""In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight." I love this book."
May 20, 2012 – Shelved as: read-2012
May 20, 2012 – Shelved as: best-of-2012
May 20, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-45 of 45 (45 new)

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Angela For the first time, or re-reading?


Julie Christine Review to follow, but my goodness. What a treasure.


Claire McAlpine Have to get on with this soon


message 5: by Stuart (new)

Stuart This is a beautiful review Julie. Well done.


Julie Christine Thank you- this was a very personal joy to read.


message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill Yes, lovely review! I picked this up directly after reading The Paris Wife and it was magical hearing Hemingway's own version. It made me yearn to be in Paris...particularly during those wonderful years long gone...


message 8: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I always enjoy your reviews, Julie, but this one is particularly well-written and fun to read.


Shitikanth Kashyap Excellent review! Reminds me how lucky I'm to be in Paris for the summer :)


Julie Christine Shitikanth wrote: "Excellent review! Reminds me how lucky I'm to be in Paris for the summer :)"
Oh, lucky, lucky you!! Enjoy every moment, Shitikanth.


Julie Christine Jessica wrote: "I always enjoy your reviews, Julie, but this one is particularly well-written and fun to read."

Aw -thank you, dear friend!


message 12: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Littler One doesn't need to go to Paris to enjoy this book. But they would be a fool not to. Especially if they are an incurable romantic ...


message 13: by Ipek (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ipek A Moveable Feast was actually my second Hemingway. I first read Farewell To Arms as an assignment for a book review class, I enjoyed the book deeply but it never got to me like A Moveable Feast. I wasn't a Hemingway fan before I read this book, but I was a dedicated one after I finished it. And I don't completely agree with the 'haven't been to Paris' part, but I see your point. Anyone who has something against the city or simply doesn't care for it, won't get the same pleasure out of this book as someone who does love Paris. Lovely review. (Excuse me if I made any grammar mistakes, English is not my native language.)


message 14: by Gary (last edited May 26, 2013 04:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary  the Bookworm I think your review is excellent. It made me long for Paris and I agree that Hemingway's sketchs of his time there were enchanting.


message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim A lovely review indeed! I think a lot of what Hemingway wrote in this book doesn't reflect well on him, but what he wrote about Paris definitely rings true.


message 16: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Holder You might want to check out the movie "Midnight In Paris". Your review reminded me of this delightful movie by Woody Allen.


Julie Christine Carrie wrote: "You might want to check out the movie "Midnight In Paris". Your review reminded me of this delightful movie by Woody Allen." Carrie, I ADORE Midnight In Paris. Woody gets it, totally!

How's the writing coming? I've been thinking about you! I left Seattle for the Olympic Peninsula in March, but still could use a beta reader, soonish! Working on rewrite 1, at last :)


Suzanne In my opinion , your review was much better than The Moveable Feast. I've been to Paris a few times. It is one of my favorite cities. For me, and I'm also a romantic, it was beautiful, warm, delicious and the wine was flowing, but it wasn't a drunken brawl. Let me know when you've written something. I bet I'd like it better.
I did like the d
Sketches at the end.


message 19: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Holder Hi Julie,
Thanks for asking. My writing is coming along slowly but surely. I have rewritten my first chapter about 10 times. The more I rewrite the better my writing gets (like exercising a muscle) and the more clear my direction for the novel is becoming. I am in process rewriting the outline for my novel and starting the second chapter. I'm also reading books on the craft of fiction writing and learning so much. The whole process is currently exciting. Left Seattle for the Olympic Peninsula...sounds peaceful. Awesome you're on your first rewrite. Let me know when you need a beta reader. If you're on Facebook, look me up. Best of luck on your writing. :)


message 20: by Julie Christine (last edited May 28, 2013 07:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie Christine Suzanne wrote: "In my opinion , your review was much better than The Moveable Feast. I've been to Paris a few times. It is one of my favorite cities. For me, and I'm also a romantic, it was beautiful, warm, del..." Ah, Susan - t'es trop gentille! Merci bien :) If this monstrosity sees the light of day, I'll will let you know! It is set in France, brief scenes in the Marais, but the rest in the Languedoc. Did I mention I love France? ;)


Julie Christine Carrie wrote: "Hi Julie,
Thanks for asking. My writing is coming along slowly but surely. I have rewritten my first chapter about 10 times. The more I rewrite the better my writing gets (like exercising a musc..."


So good to read this, Carrie and to know that you feeling confident and excited by the process.

I will seek you out on Facebook! Stay tuned. JJ


Suzanne I've only traveled around Paris. I love it. Have you seen the meter maids with scarves around their necks and wearing heels. You've purchased the petit fours in those perfect little boxes and felt guilty slashing with a fork . But you did it anyway because you'd feel really guilty not eating them. Walking down those little streets and never getting lost because each street was just right. Groups of small children sitting right in front of Picassos with crayons drawing. I hope you can capture re some of that.


Tiffany Excellent review. I just visited Paris for the first time a few weeks ago, right in the middle of reading A Moveable Feast. I loved it before I was in Paris, and now that I've been to Paris, I adore the book even more. My copy is also dog-eared and marked with underlines and asterisks. It seems as though we've marked a lot of the same passages. :) While in Paris, my husband and I stayed on the Rue de Notre Dame des Champs. As soon as I picked up the book again on the plane home, the very first sentence I read talked about his time living on the very same street. It was a neat little thrill to find that out, but it would've been awesome if I'd known while I was there!


message 24: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Evocative review. I have been to Paris a few times, but mostly as a twenty-something without a firm grip on adulthood, wide-eyed enough to float in the stunning beauty all around, revel in the camaraderie of others my age on New Year's Eve, and engage in young foolery of diverse sorts, but nothing in my petit morceau compares to the joie, sensations and flavors of those who have experienced it for real.


Linda Enjoyed your critique. Suggest you try "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain


Julie Christine Linda wrote: "Enjoyed your critique. Suggest you try "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain"

Thank you, Linda. I gave "The Paris Wife" a go last year, but it wasn't the read for me. Can't win 'em all :)


message 27: by Jenn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn Just finished reading this marvelous book and completely agree with your beautifully worded review! Love it so much :)


Alicia I just finished this after reading The Paris Wife as well and also couldn't help compare it to Midnight in Paris. Your review was wonderful even though I thought the book was mediocre. I have read The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises, and I am not Hemingway's biggest fan, but Paris sounds wonderful and I do hope to visit someday.


Kerith Julie, I disagree with your crossed out lines!

I had always disliked Hemingway - didn't care for The Old Man and the Sea in high school. I've always loved Fitzgerald, so I'm keen on the Lost Generation.

I actually read The Paris Wife, which was ok, but the best thing out of that was actually that it made me want to read Hemingway.

Upon the recommendation of a friend who has long been a Hemingway fan (his oldest daughter is named Hadley), I picked up A Moveable Feast. I loved it. Couldn't put it down. Reread again on my honeymoon.

I've never been to Paris - I'm sure a trip there would deepen the connection, but that's true of any location a reader hasn't been. It's a great balance of Paris being a character it's great if you've met, but the work can still be appreciated if you've not met.

Awesome review but even for the uninitiated, it's an engaging read. I do think this would be a better read in HS than Old Man and the Sea (or maybe the English teachers have a new themes to teach beyond "man v. nature" - that just didn't draw me in).

Otherwise, I completely agree with your review!


Julie Christine Kerith wrote: "Julie, I disagree with your crossed out lines!

I had always disliked Hemingway - didn't care for The Old Man and the Sea in high school. I've always loved Fitzgerald, so I'm keen on the Lost Gene..."


Love your comments, Kerith. And yes, the crossings-out mean I don't entirely agree with those statements, either :) Thank you- I'm so glad you stopped in and wrote! And even more chuffed that A Moveable Feast touched you.


Julie Christine Alicia wrote: "I just finished this after reading The Paris Wife as well and also couldn't help compare it to Midnight in Paris. Your review was wonderful even though I thought the book was mediocre. I have read ..."

Alicia, a much-belated thank you for your kind words. I do hope a visit to Paris is in your future!


Julie Christine Jenn wrote: "Just finished reading this marvelous book and completely agree with your beautifully worded review! Love it so much :)"

Jenn, so so sweet- thank you!


Robert Kettering Something that has bothered me: Hemingway mentions being "very poor" in his early days in Paris, yet he had a job that must have paid something, and I've read that Hadley had a trust fund that paid about $3,700 a year, no small sum in Paris of those days, when (according to Fitzgerald) you could get a six-course meal, wine included, for the equivalent of 18 cents. Hemingway also mentions(perhaps inadvertently) that he and Hadley had a maid. Even scrimping and scraping, I wonder how poor people afford winter-long ski vacations in the Austrian Alps? Not these days...


Julie Christine Robert wrote: "Something that has bothered me: Hemingway mentions being "very poor" in his early days in Paris, yet he had a job that must have paid something, and I've read that Hadley had a trust fund that pai..."

I know. Wouldn't you just give anything to tag along and see their quotidian lives unfold? I think there was a lot of "borrowing" from wealthier friends, people who had the means to rent or own vacation properties, etc. And yes, those trust funds. We should all be so benefactored :) Love the comment, Robert!


Robert Kettering Julie wrote: "Robert wrote: "Something that has bothered me: Hemingway mentions being "very poor" in his early days in Paris, yet he had a job that must have paid something, and I've read that Hadley had a trus..."

Very glad you liked the comment, Julie, except now I have to run to the dictionary to look up the word "quotidian", partly because I'm the compulsive type, but also because I wonder if I too am living quotidian life...probably not.


message 36: by Sharon (new) - added it

Sharon Maybe I'll read with a bottle of Burgundy .... Great review


Maureen I agree with your second false start, this is not the place to start with Hemingway, but not with the first. I have never been to paris and never expect to be, but have ready many books set there, in many different times, and I am happy with the vision of Paris that exists in my head.


Julie Christine Kit wrote: "Good review - this is a re-read for me. Reading the first page I was amazed how well Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris captured Hemingway's mannered writing." Oh, I so agree Kit! Thank you for the comment.


Lynda Great Review. Picked up A Moveable Feast in charity shop today. How does such honed prose strike with such ferocious poignancy?


Julie Christine Lynda wrote: "Great Review. Picked up A Moveable Feast in charity shop today. How does such honed prose strike with such ferocious poignancy?"
Oh, what a GREAT line, Lynda- thank you! Can't wait for your reaction to this. Happy Reading to you!


message 41: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson Absolutely great review, Julie.


Danielle i think you have underestimated this novel as i am neither a fan of hemingway (i have never even touched any of his other works—this was my first) nor have ever been to paris, but nonetheless i was captivated by this book from start to finish! it is great indeed


luke dennison I agree with danielle. I have been to Paris but in my opinion what you say is pure hyperbole....


message 44: by L (new)

L F Paris and this book seems to have unleashed much passion.
Hemingway was not for everyone and Paris of late is not the artsy city of the past. But still, reading this book opens ones mind and creates wonderful conversations. Not a bad thing for certain.


Rositsa Zlatilova Julie, this is one of the most beautiful and exciting reviews I've ever read. I enjoyed A Moveable Feast very much too!


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