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VINE VOICEon 15 October 2013
If you have not read a Farewell to Arms before , this is the edition to buy. Not only does it have an amusingly egocentric preface by 'Papa' Hemingway, written at the heady height of his fame 20 years after he wrote the novel, but a useful introduction by Sean Hemingway and, in an appendix, discarded draft chapters and alternative endings which give a great insight into a literary artist. As for the novel itself, it is a modernist classic, written in a lean imagist style which the world had not seen before.A little dated now perhaps in its attitudes, but still worth reading as an angry and poignant evocation of the tragic waste of the First World War.Recommended.
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on 1 November 2017
I recently read "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and whilst a little dated now ( for example the use of "thee" and "thou) I neverthess thoroughly enjoyed the novel. The tight plot-line and sense of drama dragged me into the story and I really cared about the lead characters. It was and remains an exceptional novel and a wonderful example of the novelists art.
I decided then to read "A Farewell to Arms" being Hemingway's first novel and the one that made hIs reputation. I must say that whilst I finished the novel I found it hard to warm to the main characters - Frederick Henry a rich, somewhat spoiled and dissolute American who deserts from the Italian army and Catherine, an English nurse who he falls in love (or should that be lust?) with. The dialogue between them often seems to be contrived and does nothing to advance the novel. This may be a result of the age in which the novel was written (1929), but whole chapters are spent describing how they spend their time in one city or hotel or another with very little of interest happening. Even the ending of the novel which Hemingway apparently rewrote 39 times did little to move me. It may be that I am missing something and readers will no doubt form their own view but compared to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" I found this first offering of Hemingway very average.
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on 10 March 2016
I confess that, despite having read some of Hemingway’s most praised novels, I remain unconvinced of the man’s greatness. His prose style is certainly worthy of note: the strung-out, comma-less sentences with their serial conjunctions and butt-ended clauses, and the hewn plainness of his prose, are both on show in this book. But these stylistic devices have, to my mind, been better used by other writers, and Hemingway’s punctuation surely owes something to Gertrude Stein. As for the novel itself, it is a romance and an adventure story, for which war serves as a backdrop (and in this respect it is similar to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”). The romance is somewhat less than engaging, and we don't really get a sense of the couple involved as characters except from through what they say, rendered in rather wooden dialogue. To my mind the standout section of the novel covers the fiasco of Caporetto, when the Italians lost significant territory and numbers of men to a large Austrian-German offensive in autumn 1917. Here the sheer randomness and caprice of war comes through, but it is too brief a part of the novel to make up for its weaknesses.
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on 8 October 2014
Hard to get into this book as written in an odd style - had to keep saying to myself to remember the time in which it was written. I had read The Paris Wife so had an insight into Hemingway from his first wife's perspective and had not particularly liked him so perhaps that was also a barrier to his work, but he, the author is very self focussed. But then perhaps I would be in a war situation? A funny mix as even though he is self absorbed, mainly about alcohol, we do not really discover much about his responses, emotions and inner thoughts. Yes there are some insights but few- another characteristic of those times? The relationship with Catherine is also very polite and formal - reminds me of old black & white films when I was a child..... However, this book was chosen for a bookclub meeting & despite no one really liking it, there was a great deal of discussion and questions asked about the book including the war, the geography, Hemingway and relationships at that time etc..... How style and life is so different now!! But a challenge to think in different ways and to really try to understand the style of writing and the author. Perhaps worth reading after all?
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 20 October 2011
The basis of the novel `A Farewell to Arms' is author Ernest Hemingway's own experience as an ambulance driver on the Italian front during Wold War I when he was badly wounded and fell in love with a nurse. This semi-autobiography approach makes for reality as `A Farewell to Arms' becomes both a love story and a bleak commentary on the horror and futility of war. It will appeal to readers like myself who have visited the settings of the story in the disputed areas of Gorizia, northern Italy and the Swiss border country, and who are saddened by the folly of fighting in such wonderful mountain environments.

The story is recounted in the first person by main protagonist American Frederic Henry, a tenente or lieutenant in the Italian medical corps, and it is divided into 5 books that allow a build up to his character. The tenente communicates easily and freely with others and as a hard drinker is full of both `joie de vivre' and apprehension to his circumstances. `A Farewell to Arms' tells a gripping story as the tenente endures much pain and misery and hardship in addition to appraising his own moral attitudes and passions. The books cover initial meeting with nurse Catherine Barkley and his being wounded, then growth of their relationship, followed by return to the front, defeat and retreat, escape from his own allies, and a finale in neutral Switzerland.

Ernest Hemingway's writing style may now be regarded as somewhat old-fashioned, yet at the time of first publication in 1929 it was a break from earlier romantic prose. Though writing is gritty and forceful it is strange to have expletives replaced with dashes and yet to have non-PC words employed. Hemingway relies heavily on dialogue and uses basic simple language that adds credibility to characters and situations. His terse and sparse phrasing is especially powerful in revealing the chaos of war with mental as well as physical conflicts. Often there are what appear to be understatements, but never does the novel slacken pace or lose direction. `A Farewell to Arms' is a classic of its style which has deservedly withstood the test of time - it is powerful prose.
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on 24 November 2011
I was interested to read the one-star reviews. I figured they missed the point. Against the backdrop of literature at the time this book was read, the writing was fresh and new, modern and unusual.
The theme (not the premise) was similar to 'Have and Have Not' in that if you expect a happy ending then you will be just disappointed.
And good for Hemingway! Life isn't a series of happy endings, a place where they meet up at the end of the story and live forever-after happily. Life is gritty and what you get out of it is what you put into it. I most value Hemingway's writing because he doesn't pull his punches, he lets you have the realism on the chin (like any good boxer). The short, clippy prose is like gold.
OK, I admit it, the dialogue at times is unrealistic and the women he brings into his stories are a bit stereotyped and bland, but you have to see it all in the context of the time in which he wrote. It was a time when Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astair were working and saying all thier bland, romantic things on the silver screen. It was a time when people expected less of women than we do now.
What Hemingway has, is an eye for detail and a magical talent for dialogue between people whether they are of different nationalities or race.
I can understand why he got the Nobel prize too. He was a master of portraying emotion without ever having to use -ly adverbs or stick the MC's feelings in your face. You feel through the writing without it being obvious.
I wish I could do that in my humble scribblings!
'The Cyclist' by Fred Nath.
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on 23 March 2014
I'm not normally a fan of books written in the first person. It jarred and irritated me at first as did the repetitive style.. I almost abandoned it. But I asked myself, how did he win a Nobel Prize . How did he win a Pulitzer Prize. Am i missing something. So I stuck with it and it drew me in. I was no longer a spectator. I became involved. The style works and it became a page turner. I'm now working my way through his complete catalog and enjoying it. The use of the first person and repetition to replace the usual omnipotent narrator worked very well for me. .
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on 18 July 2016
First read this book fifty years ago. Hemingway's deceptively simple and inimitable style of writing is unsurpassed even now and powerful.
This book is based on his own experience and is a dramatic and passionate love story told without sentimentality and is very moving. All of his other fiction and non fiction similarly based on past experience and written in the same style makes Hemingway a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize.
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on 6 January 2015
I really didn't enjoy The Old Man and the Sea so was wary about trying a second Hemingway, but I read a quote from this novel somewhere and liked it, so thought I'd give it a go. I wasn't disappointed. Typical Hemingway - nihilistic, impassive, surrendered to the meaninglessness of life, and really beautifully written. Also gave good insight into WW1 in a way that didn't feel too text-booky.
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on 28 December 2015
This is a classic literary work which one does not forget even having read it more tra 50 years before, when the objects of the story were still tangibile leaving or simply visiting Italy, whose sight is clearly photographed by a bare and essential language. However, this is not a story of war, it is a story of human life. Everybody should read it, now as meany years ago.
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