Book Review: A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

In 4 posts in June I've participated in a read-a-long through War Through The Generations Challenge.
This will be a brief review because in all my previous posts they gave much information about the book including spoilers. 
A Farewell To Arms is about Lt. Frederic Henry that is an American from Pittsburgh, PA, that was in Italy when World War I begins and he joins their Army to fight Germany/Austria or the Hun's. The Hun's is a decrepit slang term for German's. I believe that Lt. Henry must have had an inheritance or an allowance of money to be traveling in Italy. We are told little about his family in America. It is obvious by this that he is not close to them and they are of no consequence to the story. He is a young man full of romance, with a penchant for bravery. He often drinks alcohol: brandy, vermouth, grappa, wine, sherry, cognac, etc. Everyone he meets he asks them to join him in a drink. Henry is an officer and an ambulance driver. He has narrow escapes, injuries, recovery time. During the early part of the story he meets and begins an affair with Catherine Barkely from England. She is a V.A.D. which is a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse. I had thought she was not a nurse but I looked up the initials of V.A.D. and she was. During much of their courtship their dialogue is silly, trivial, superficial, immature, annoying. Towards the later part of the book they've both matured a bit by life experiences and their dialogue at least becomes more level-headed. Catherine is a dependent character, I think more than anything she does not want to cause a problem between the two of them by making demands on him. She has much insecurity especially in the beginning. A priest had expressed to Lt. Henry towards the beginning of the story,
"When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve."
I fully understood this wise sage or prophet's statement by the end of the story. Henry does face trauma in the war, and with Catherine, and he will be faced with doing things for and sacrificing for. A Farewell To Arms is about an officer in World War I and we are given brief glimpses of the war itself. The focus is truly on Henry and Catherine. Their relationship and how the war has affected them individually and as a couple.

Did I love this story? Hmmmm, it is moving, memorable. I'm not sure I loved it though. I have grown to like it and I am glad to have read it. I would never have read this story of my own choice. It is a writing style that I do not fully appreciate. Hemingway is known to write in a choppy, terse, strong-type sentences. They are short sentences, not descriptive. I prefer and love Dickens descriptive type characters and sentences, I do not like Hemingway's. It is a sad, melancholy type story. Not a good story for a depressive personality. Of course we know Hemingway was a depressive person and I supposed this came across in his writing.

Thank you again to Serena and Anna of War Through The Generations Challenge for hosting this!

My copy of book was from the library. Published by Simon and Schuster. Originally published 1929.
352 pages. 
Ernest Miller Hemingway born July 21, 1899 and died July 2, 1961.
He too was an ambulance driver during World War I. Using his memories and experiences of this time period he wrote A Farewell To Arms in 1929.
Wikipedia has a lengthy and interesting bio of his life. I found it most interesting that he was involved in World War II. Also noteworthy is several members of his family committed suicide.


  1. Even though I wouldn't have minded abandoning it -- and probably would have if it weren't for the read-along -- I'm glad I read it, too. Seems like we had the same thoughts on this one. The writing style was the main obstacle for me.

  2. This has been linked to the reviews page and a snippet will be posted on July 13. Thanks for participating.


Post a Comment