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11 March 2010 @ 10:11 pm
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

I'm starting to think that For Whom the Bell Tolls - which went instantly to my Top Ten Books Of All Time (And Or My Life So Far) - was a fluke. Nothing I've read by Hemingway since lives up to it - so it's a good thing I read it first, or I wouldn't have continued. I'll probably get around to The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon just to say I've read them, and because Hemingway is easy to read, but if they're crap that'll be it for me, thank you and goodnight.

Dad told me that this book was 'secretly homosexual.' I think he was bemused when I went, 'Yay!'

Synopsis: Henry is either a doctor or some kind of medical aide, and an American, in the Italian army in World War One. Why Hemingway always makes his protagonists Americans in a foreign arm is a mystery - excusing the obvious. I would have bought it if Henry was Italian. It would also have made his eventual desertion more poignant.

Anyway, Henry gets in the way of a bomb and injures his leg. He'd been walking out with a nurse called Catherine, and fortunately when he's transferred to Milan for rehab she is too. He knocks her up and goes back to the front, which becomes the back because the army is retreating and shooting all its own officers along the way. Why this was thought to be a good thing is beyond me; I don't understand armies, from their existence up.

Henry deserts and ends up rowing Catherine and himself to Switzerland to escape arrest. In that way he's fortunate that Italy is not an island. Catherine eventually goes into labour, Henry has some lulzy thoughts on how awesome gas and air is (NO ONE uses it nowadays, with epidurals), Catherine has to go to C-section and bleeds out. THE END. Yeah, I was shocked too. It seems so random and unconnected. Also, it's not a war novel, it's a romance novel, and not a very good one at that.

You have such a lovely temperature and you sleep like a little boy with your arm around the pillow and think it's me.

I would watch her while she kept very still and then take out the last two pins and it would all come down and she would drop her head and we would both be inside of it, and it was the feeling of inside a tent or behind a falls.

I liked these two quotes - I LOVE YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR TEMPERATURE LOL - but I find Hemingway's allergy to commas terrifically annoying.

Now THIS is the real romance, IMO: Henry and Rinaldi.

"[...] Look, baby, this is your old toothbrushing glass. I kept it all the time to remind me of you."
"To remind you to brush your teeth."
"No. I have my own too. I kept this to remind me of your trying to brush away the Villa Rossa from your teeth in the morning, swearing and eating aspirin and cursing harlots. Every time I see that glass I think of you trying to clean your conscience with a toothbrush." He came over to the bed. "Kiss me once and tell me you're not serious."

"I don't want to be your friend, baby. I am your friend."

Friend? Is that what the kids are calling it these days? SNH, SNH, SNH.

They were [...] very scornful of a civilian my age. I did not feel insulted. In the old days I would have insulted them and picked a fight.

Henry? Not the most engaging character. He's violent and racist and pretty much takes total advantage of Catherine. She's incredibly, one might say unbelievably, pliant about being used in this manner.

The world breaks everyone and afterwards 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.

Now THAT was a good one. But you can't save a whole book with just one good line.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov
I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The School for Husbands, Moliere
On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks
The Famished Road, Ben Okri
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
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