Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review: The Sun Also Rises

When I was a boy, the only thing I knew about Hemingway was that he'd written a book called The Old Man and the Sea. Everyone in my class hated it, but I never got to read it. We were stuck on The Scarlet Letter year after year (it was a small school).

When I first started writing, I wasn't interested in "literary" fiction. I was all about fantasy tales and epic adventures. I didn't want to read about anything set in "the real world."

But as I've grown older, I've developed a lot of respect for writers who made their name with stories in the real world, because that's where I am now and it matters. I've read Mistborn, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc. But no matter where I went, no matter who I talked to, somebody kept mentioning that one, lyrical name.


I'd seen a few documentaries on his life and had a good idea about the basic concept of his most famous works. Short, snappy sentences. Macho image. After finishing The Fortunate Pilgrim, I went to the local used book store and grabbed the only Hemingway titles they had.

And since it's always a good idea to begin at the beginning, I started with The Sun Also Rises.

This review won't go into a lot of detail, since the book was a huge success and I'm only eighty-eight years late to the party.

The book tells the story of a group of expatriates roaming around Paris and Spain. They spend nearly every free moment drinking lots of liquor (and I do mean a lot) and bickering amongst themselves. 

Ok, that's only one way to read it.

The real story is about a group of friends who belong to the so-called "Lost Generation." I didn't know what the plot was before opening the book (though I was tempted to cheat), but by page fifty, I suspected something was going on under the surface. 

If I had read this as a kid, it wouldn't have made any sense. But being twenty-five, I've seen enough awkward conversations to recognize the signs. 

These people are restless, full of wanderlust, and running from something. Each one bitterly clings to a vision of reality that they can't have, whether it's a woman's love, the respect of men, or an understanding of how the world works. 

The Sun Also Rises didn't hit me as hard as it hit the people who lived through the Great War and were in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. One article I read claimed that the book could have only been written in 1925, the perfect interim of the interim war years. WWI was far enough in the past to merit reflection, but the Great Depression was still a ways off.

I finished the book in less than two days. Some of the foreign words were tough to work through, and after reading so many King novels, it wasn't easy having to pay attention so that I could get the maximum benefit. 

The novel is a classic example of Hemingway's infamous "iceberg" theory, keeping the meat of the story underneath the printed words (with very few exceptions). It's not till about page 150 when two of the men actually come to blows, so if you didn't pick up on the tension before hand, it comes out of nowhere.

I'm glad I finally snatched a copy and look forward to reading more of Hemingway's work. With luck, it'll help me improve my own stuff, though I'll probably never hold a candle flame to one of the greats.

Power to the pen!


  1. It's one of my favourite books. You can really feel Jake's yearning for Brett. I haven't read it since the early '90s, so I'm definitely due for a re-read.

  2. I'm in the middle of writing an essay on The Sun Also Rises right now. I was trying to find an example of an awkward conversation amongst the main group and stumbled upon your blog. I'm so impressed that you've kept up with your blogging since 2007. That's very inspirational to me because I just recently started my own blog and YouTube channel and it's just amazing seeing a blog that has lasted for so long. Good job, congratulations, you're amazing, keep it up, and all those other sayings. I've gotta go finish that essay.

    1. Thank you for the kind comment, Amberly! Yes, I started my blog into thousand seven, but it has only evolved into something that truly represents me in the last year or two. I do hope you will keep reading! Good luck with the essay!