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Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 4 of 5 stars Farewell to Arms is said to be Hemingway’s best book. Set in the Spanish Civil War, Robert Jordan is an American fighting in the International Brigades for the Republicans. He is tasked with blowing a bridge behind enemy lines and joins a band of guerrillas based in a cave, nor far from the chosen target. He falls in love with a rescued young girl and for three days enjoys true love. The book is feted as the best fictional account of the Spanish Civil War. I feel that Hemingway truly captures the feelings of this conflict. He worked as a war correspondent during the actual war and For Whom The Bell Tolls contains his accurate observations from the field. From the Madrid luxuries of the (primarily Russian) General staff, to the isolation, bonding, disputes and emotions of the guerrilla band, Hemingway weaves a splendid tale of loyalty, betrayal, fear, elation, romance and the horrors of war. I really enjoyed the Spanish language being used in conversation and it really helped to set the scene to hear the people cursing with real Spanish phrases. This work could be used in Translation Studies. It demonstrates the spirit of the Spanish people during their civil war. There is a sense of reality that these people were dealing with many foreigners and it is interesting to see how Robert Jordan, an American or ‘Ingles’, who spoke perfect Spanish, was so well-received and respected by the close-knit band of warriors. For me the ultimate conclusion was disappointing. The tragic twist was quite not as stomach-churning as in that of Farewell to Arms, for example, yet was perhaps the pessimistic outcome that Robert Jordan had envisaged as events conspired against him. Perhaps the book is an accurate description of the desperation of the Republicans as they on the whole unsuccessfully dealt with the formidable fascist foe with all their superior military equipment and force. Farewell to Arms is a great book but I am sure that in the Hemingway archives there is better work still to discover. View all my reviews

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Review: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’d encountered Hemingway through his ‘Death in the Afternoon’ foray into bullfighting. I have always wanted to tackle some of his pure fiction and thought I’d delve into this shortish novel, with catchy title. I expected a book on war and the protagonist’s journey on the Italian front of World War 1 did not disappoint. The book is a romantic novel though and the blossoming love between soldier and nurse in the heat of conflict is a contrasting dichotomy that Hemingway weaves wonderfully in a myriad of descriptive prose. As the story progresses you find attachment to the characters and Hemingway will ever so suddenly sweep the carpet from underneath you and cast the direction into another unforeseen direction. The book builds and builds and we see the conflict dying down and as the birth of their firstborn approaches one can only expect a nice happy conclusion. War over and happiness ever after. But alas, the tragedy of the finale leaves one dumbstruck and aghast. It really does leave you hanging. The tragedy of war is matched with the tragedy of life and our main character’s heartbreak hits you as a reader with devastating effect. A fantastic read and I cannot wait until I grasp hold of the next Hemingway adventure. View all my reviews

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