miriam's Reviews > For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
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Oct 13, 2012

it was amazing
Read in October, 2012

I started to read this book only because it was a local book-club selection, having failed to enjoy Hemingway in the past. I was one-third through before it captured me; and from then on I was so taken with the multiple levels of thought and feeling the book educed, I had to read it in shorter intervals to process them.

Hemingway draws the reader into the characters’ experience and their struggle to make sense of confusion. He exposes these in the context of relationships, as when he writes of Robert Jordan, “Maria was very hard on his bigotry” when his response to her exposed his shallow fascination with heroism and martyrdom and his intellectual approach to killing. The extraordinarily complex character, Pablo, is best understood inside his relationship to Pilar, Robert Jordan and the horses.

My sense of revulsion at what people on both sides did to each other during this war was tempered somewhat by the poignancy of their internal battles as they confronted their fears, justified killing, and lived out their loyalty to each other. This story has remarkable depth. The vernacular adds credence to a peasant revolt in a Spanish country. The many poetic passages describing how Robert Jordan saw and felt his surroundings add lushness to a raw tale and offer relief to sometimes unrelenting tension, especially near the end.

While the story takes place during only 3 days, one has a sense Robert Jordan matured a lifetime in that span.
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