The Sun Also Rises
4 July 2014 Leave a comment
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Summary: A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation. The story follows the hapless Jake and the flamboyant Brett as they journey from the wild life of 1920’s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealised love, and vanishing illusions.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Review: I’ve been wanting to read Hemingway for a while now. From what i’d heard of his writing style, it sounded like something i would love. “Economical and understated,” as wikipedia describes it. I hate overly descriptive and unnecessarily verbose writing.
In terms of the writing style, i got pretty damn close to what i had hoped for. Hemingway might use simple language, but that doesn’t mean what he’s trying to get across is done simply. He gives the reader enough information and trusts them to put it all together–he doesn’t spell it out. This was most true for me in the dialogue. What the characters say–and don’t say–to each other says more than how they say it, or the look on their face when they say it. There are no props to hold up the dialogue; there is just the dialogue.
However, to say that Hemingway uses an economical writing style, isn’t to say he doesn’t over describe things. Or, that he doesn’t describe unnecessary things. Where there were several long paragraphs of prose, the writing could drag a little. This held most true at any point he wrote too long about bull fighting… At these points the writing sometimes became less understated and more perfunctory, and, ultimately, pointless.
The plot i was divided on. I love the characters and their relationships, their drunken adventures and wild emotions. Even when nothing much was happening to really drive the plot (what there was of a plot, anyway), i was enthralled by these people, their interactions and their motivations. I disliked the bull fighting. I would say ‘hate’, but i consciously did not pay it enough mind to find the effort to hate it. It was a setting, nothing more, and how much time was taken up with it was ultimately self-indulgent on Hemingway’s part.
I had been led to believe that Hemingway’s female characters are pretty awful. Perhaps having such a low expectation is the reason i didn’t find his main female character that bad. She wasn’t a well-written female by any means, but not as bad as i had feared. She bathed a lot (really, at least five or six times she randomly ended a conversation or outing by declaring that she needed to bathe), but otherwise she was quite an interesting woman for the time. Fiercely independent, she lived for the moment, for the fun, and refused to let any man tame her. Not all men fell at her feet, but she was easily desirable (i think) because of her fun and independent nature. And this, really, serves as the plot.
Were it not for the excessive inclusion of bull fighting and Hemingway’s occasional habit of somehow managing to over-describe within his uncomplicated syntax, this book would be getting four or five stars. I look forward to reading another Hemingway, with the hope that it can fulfil this criteria!