Outside of the novella The Old Man and the Sea, I haven’t read any long works from Ernest Hemingway. As an English teacher, I ought to be ashamed of myself. I love his short stories and his terse writing style, so I added a Hemingway novel to my reading list this summer, and I was glad that I did.
Published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first novel. It tells the story of a group of American and British expatriates living in Paris after the First World War. I know that many of the reviews for this book discuss how the novel captures the hopelessness and disenfranchisement the “lost generation” felt after the war. I suppose this is true, but what I noticed is that this is a group of folks that drinks and drink and drinks. After the tsunamis of beer, wine, and coffee consumed at Parisian and Spanish cafes, I felt like I needed to call AA to get help.
The narrator Jake Barnes is a writer in love with Lady Brett Ashley, a gregarious Brit in love with every man she meets, with the exception of her husband. Jake loves Brett, but Brett loves Mike, Robert, and even the matador she meets in Spain. She is in a perpetual state of infatuation and drunkenness. Jake achingly watches her flit through life and love, but somehow he is unable to grab her and ground her.
The Sun Also Rises is a good introduction to Hemingway’s writing style with its plain-spoken language, short sentences, and dialogue. It also includes the running of the bulls at Pamplona as a backdrop to the violence in the relationships between these friends. The novel is worth reading to get a sample why Hemingway was so influential on American stories.
A bit of a sidenote: Kristie and I visited Madrid in 2007, and watched a bullfight. It was one of the most gruesome things we’ve seen in our travels. You can read my post about it here.
This is when we decided to leave. Take a look at the guy sitting to Kristie’s right. I swear that is Hemingway himself!