A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

If I had read and rated this book two stars a year ago, perhaps I would have felt guilty. But that phase of my life is over. Though I am still somewhat scared that all of my future English professors will peer into my mind, feel my distaste for A Farewell to Arms, and proceed to punch me in the face.

There are a lot of great literary things going on here, and I can see why Hemingway in general is so well-received. Despite his imperfect personal life, his writing conveyed great beauty at times. This book delves into the brutality of battle and war, the torrid tale of two star-crossed lovers, and a multitude of other motifs and themes. If my ratings were based solely on literary merit this book would be much better off.

But, this is a book I wanted to feel. I wanted to experience the emotions of love and loss, to be consumed in the crashing waves of power and passion. I was not. Maybe Hemingway wrote Henry in such a stoic way to juxtapose his personality with the severity of war, but as a whole I was not convinced. I did not connect to any of the characters, and while I recognized how horrible the war was, I never truly cared.

Similar to what I said earlier, you can read many rave reviews filled with quotes of Hemingway’s beautiful writing – I am not a fan, though this is only my first book by him. Hopefully I will enjoy his other books more!

I did like this brief exchange, though…

“‘Hell, I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?’

‘Yes. I want to ruin you.’

‘Good,’ I said, ‘that’s what I want too.'”

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9 Comments

Filed under 2 stars, Book Reviews, Books

9 responses to “A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

  1. Cathal

    I haven’t read this but I read The Old Man and the Sea but didn’t like it much… oh well. I’m still willing to give Hemingway another shot because he’s so highly thought of- he won the Nobel, so he must be good… right?

    • While I think we all have our own tastes and winning a Nobel Prize will not make an author automatically liked by all, I think there is at least a little value in this book for everyone. I would recommend you try it if you don’t have any other books to read immediately.

  2. I rate your review 5 Stars. This is also my first Hemingway books, too, and I’ve bashed my head against it so many times I got fed up and left it to catch dust. I think I got my hopes a bit to high after all I’ve read some very good reviews on his works. I can see what’s going on around Henry, but like you, I can’t feel anything. Mostly it’s just bland.

    I think the relationship between Catherine and Henry is a little silly, the way how they talk to each other is, almost in a way, childish but it would have been less so if Hemingway had written more on the way he felt towards the woman.
    My favourite character up to how far I read would be Rinaldi, Henry’s room mate in the beginning, who had, in my opinion, shown by far the most emotion.

    I’ll stop here, why should I go on more if I’m not even going to bother writing a review for it? I’m just very annoyed, having had my expectations shot down I’m bound to be. I’m reluctant to get another of his books.

    • Ah, I know how it feels when you expect a lot from a book and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. I agree that Catherine and Henry’s relationship felt odd – for me, it felt unromantic and rather unfeeling. Also, Rinaldi was interesting… he did show development, even if it wasn’t development I particularly enjoyed.

      Aw, I understand if you don’t try another book written by him. I may try the Old Man and the Sea just because my brother recommended it (and he rarely recommends books), but I think I’ll skip most of his works for now as well.

  3. I often find that the classics are hardest to review. Not only for free of angry English teachers, but also because it’s hard to say something novel about them when they get reviewed so often! Nice job with this one :)

  4. Fay

    This is my first Hemingway book and I am struggling – i can see where you are coming from about the lack of feeling. And as you said he is a beautiful writer but this book shouldn’t be purely literary.

    If I ever get to the end of the book i will post the review! (Hopefully sooner rather than later – i dislike unfinished books!)

    Great post :D

    • I agree, the detached perspective of the protagonist did not help deliver the story. I also dislike unfinished books, I hope you can get through this one without too much pain! And thank you. (:

      • Fay

        EXACTLY! As for it being unfinished – this edition has a multitude of different endings – 39 to be exact! Pick one!
        Don’t be a stranger :D

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