Hemingway

Hemingway

Having watched the amazing Ken Burns documentary on Hemingway, I decided to read A Farewell to Arms, a fictionalised account of the author’s time in Italy in World War One. It is not a book you should read whilst also writing a novel set in wartime Italy, as the writing is so well-crafted it immediately points out your own deficiencies.

Frederic Henry is American and has volunteered to fight in World War One, and has ended up driving ambulances. The novel follows his journey, as he is injured, falls in love with a hospital nurse whilst recuperating, returns to the front and then has a perilous escape from certain death, before ending up deserting, rejoining his girlfriend and looking forward to fatherhood.

It is the most realistic-feeling book I have read about being in the heart of fighting. How the characters feel, what they are thinking about and what they say to each other are all so vivid that you feel as is you are there with them and are being shown close-up the blunt reality of war.

Some months after reading it, I embarked on Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, but abandoned it after 120 pages. I hate not finishing books, but I just found the thees, thous and subject matter to hard-going, so for once, decided to move on.