The first thing that hits you about this book is the way it's written. The language is bare and sparce, yet somehow successfully evokes the Italian landscape and places a clear picture inside your head. The book is more than the sum of its parts and seems to effect you almost sublimily. Without realising it i found i was almost halfway through the book and had barely put it down.
The book is set during the first world war in Italy and really conveys the pointlessness and harshness of this war and war in general. Of course i have always assumed war to be an awfull experience, but this book really hammers that home like a nail through the head. What it really conveys is how unorganised and shambolic the war was and how no body really knew what they were doing. The soldiers dont seem to have any paticular special training or skills, and seem to have about as much idea as i would in what to do for the best. The book shows that war is just a crazy backward concept that you can never be prepared for.
As well as the war this book also conveys what it is to be young and in love and having a good time amongst friends. Despite the setting, the war was still gangs of young men together and at times you could almost imagine they were just friends on holiday. Hemmingway shows the soldiers drinking and laughing, finding girs, falling in love, and trying to make sure they dont get killed in the process. It created strong unshakable friendships between people. The war was terrible but the things that happened to the soldiers would certainly give you one hell of an adrenalin rush, and are experiences that we'l probably never get close to.
You dont have to be interested in war to read this book, God knows im not. This is a book about becoming an adult and finding out who you really are in life. You could substitute the war for any turbulant event in life that changes how you think and how you see the world.