This book is incredible. I completely understand why it is a classic. Hemingway is a masterful writer. There is so much to absolutely love about this novel. Hemingway paints the landscape and setting like a painter. Each setting is so beautifully and carefully described, recalling such detail. The humor and wit involved had me laughing aloud. He so articulately characterizes and ascribes characteristics to those within his novel. You can feel the personalities and love them as he must have in creating them. They are so alive and vibrant! They have characteristics and personalities we would typically think of per their nationalities. The war is seen as an absolute absurdity from any way you look at it, but he does not go over the top in driving this point home. There is so much else layered within this book. Yes, war is ridiculous. The whole endeavor is ridiculous. Who will win? The country that figures this out last. And the love story.. is to die for!!! It is so crazy at the outset, so real, so tender… so tragic. It has to be one of my favorite literary romances of all time.
This fictional novel is told in first person. Frederic Henry is an American studying architecture in Rome when World War I breaks out. He enlists in the Italian army as an ambulance driver, prior to America even entering the war. This mirrors Hemingway’s life in that he too volunteered to be an ambulance driver in the Italian army, years prior to America’s entrance into the war. In the novel, Lieutenant Henry develops close friendships with Rinaldi, an Italian surgeon, and a nameless priest. It is through Rinaldi that Henry meets Catherine Barkley, with whom he falls in love. The war is ensuing with Austria and Germany. The officers of Italian army at the beginning of the novel seem to be enjoying drink and brothels. Henry even develops jaundice during a prolonged hospitalized for a wound to his knee. Alcoholic hepatitis? Possibly. However, as war progresses, the men become demoralized. There is not enough food. They cannot stay dry. They might be shot at by their own army. Lieutenant Henry must navigate his men away from harm during the German attack on Caporetto. In case you have not read this novel and plan to, I will say no more.. as I do not want to ruin the novel for anyone.
I listened to the audible version read by John Slattery, which I highly recommend. I know prior to this novel being originally published, the profanity was removed. However, in this audio version it seemed like there were gaps where the profanity should have been. I would have preferred to have listened to or read the unedited version. This was a huge read for me! What an amazing book detailing a very important point in history, as well as an incredible love story.
This was read as part of Book Riot’s reading challenge as a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in the United States. It has been frequently challenged as a “sex novel” and due to “language and sexual references in the book.” This book was banned in Italy, in 1929 until 1948, by the fascist regime in part for its description of the retreat from Caporetto and in part for its anti-militarism. It was also banned in Boston at that time. It was burned in Germany in 1933 by the Nazis as it was felt to be anti-war at at time when they were trying to drum up support. It was also banned in Ireland in 1939.