Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
A romance rather than a war novel
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.