Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book 73-A Farewell to Arms (109th Book)

Book 73 was A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I have lately been guilty of daydreaming about what I am going to blog about a book while I am reading it. For the books I hate this is a secret joy that helps me slog through them (kind of like watching a really bad movie with friends that becomes good because it is fun to make fun of!) I started A Farewell to Arms day dreaming about the hate blog I was going to write about it; by the end of the novel I was hooked and sped through it. It just goes to show you that this ridiculous challenge I have set for myself has its merits.

The first thing that struck me about the novel is that it has some beautiful descriptions. The novel is set in wartime Italy where the main character, an American, has decided to to join the ambulance division of the Italian army. The descriptions of both the tragedy of the trenches and the beauty of the countryside were stunning. Even when I was hating on the novel I was struck by the loveliness of the descriptions.

The second thing that struck me about this book is how sick I am of novels set in war. I have recently joined a neighbourhood bookclub. Of the first 4 novels that we read two of them were set in war. It appears that most modern novelists are obsessed with what war does to people. I will grant authors that: war makes a fantastic backdrop for novels about the human condition. It does seem to bring out the best and worst in people and it makes for a really great platform to discuss the gray areas between the good and evil. Not all questions about life have a nice pat answer.

The back cover talked about this book being a love story, but I didn't buy it. I didn't write down the quote but somewhere in the novel, Henry said something about not having any intention of loving Catherine and I believed him. Catherine is crazy, certifiably so it seems since she just can't stop asking about how good of a job she is doing being his "wife". I am not sure about Henry, but if I were in a relationship like that I would want to shoot myself. Having someone who only lives to do exactly what pleases you would be exhausting, and boring. I couldn't decide when I finished the book whether Hemingway was trying to tell us that this story was love, or that desperate times called for desperate measures. Is this a story of a war romance or a love story written for a man's man? Either way despite parts of it making an interesting story it didn't really feel very sincere.

I borrowed this book from the library as an electronic read and 4 days before the expiry date I still had 150 pages to go. Unlike, hard copies of books from the library when ebooks expire you simply lose access to them and can't pay a late fee to finish them. Thankfully, this weekend I had a friend visiting and we spent our time in a coffee shop  with her writing a novel and myself plowing through this book. It was a bit stressful to know that if I didn't finish the book that it would disappear and I would have to track down another copy of the book to complete it.

My favourite memory from this book was when I discovered that the quote "The world breaks everyone and afterwards, many are strong in the broken places". I was so excited! I have personally used that quote several times and was pleased to have found the quote in its natural setting. It was quickly followed by disappointment however when I realized that the setting was not at all what I had expected and that it wasn't uttered by someone that I felt deserved to utter it. Henry speaks about it while lying in bed with Catherine after deserting the army. While I don't fault him for deserting I DO fault him for generally trying to escape his life. At this point in the novel I don't think he is healing or making himself better. I wonder if Hemingway intended us to think that Henry was getting strong in in the broken places or only that he wished that he was? Either way it was not the setting that I envisioned for a quote like this to be uttered.

I have looked ahead to the next few books in the challenge and I will have to admit that I am pretty excited about the next few. Although I have been grumpy with the challenge since the summer, things are looking up! I am nearly three quarters of the way done and I am pretty excited about that fact!

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