Book Review: A Farewell to Arms – by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms is known as one of the best American novels about World War I. Hemingway wrote it when he was just thirty years old. He was in the war as an American ambulance driver on the Italian front.

The story is autobiographical. Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver, falls in love with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. Caught in the atrocities of war, the two eventually end up together in Switzerland.

A Farewell to Arms is a love story inside a war story. It depicts the brutality and senselessness of war and what it does to the people that are swept up in it.

The book was Hemingway’s first bestseller and catapulted him to the top of American literature. It is often called one of Hemingway’s best works.

As it is often the case with me and famous literary works, I don’t rank them as highly as one might expect. I like Hemingway’s terse style, his using omission as a literary device. For instance, there is no sex in the book, but it’s obvious that Frederic and Catherine have plenty of it, to the point where the book was banned from newsstands due to the presence of pornography.

I can assure you there is no pornography whatsoever in A Farewell to Arms. The sex is solely in the head and imagination of the reader.

I found Hemingway’s dialog stilted and silly, and based on their interactions, the love between the two protagonists contrived and superficial. Besides the depictions of war, most of the human interaction didn’t seem real to me. I was reading a book, or better yet, I was working my way through a book.

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