Top critical review
Canonical work of American literature (for some reason)
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2019
Jake Barnes was injured in WWI. His injury might have rendered him impotent. This could be the reason why he drinks so much. Jake drinks a lot of alcohol. So does his companion Lady Brett Ashley. She and Jake seem to love each other, but some obstacles are in their way. Alcohol. Money. His lack of confidence. Her fickleness. Lady Brett Ashley is in the process of getting a divorce so she can marry a bankrupt Scottish guy named Mike. Mike also enjoys drinking a lot of alcohol. Alcohol helps him suppress his jealousy when Brett has dalliances with Robert Cohn, a Jewish writer and a Princeton graduate who is a trained boxer, and a young Spanish toreador named Romero. Jake’s friend Bill also hangs around.
They travel from Paris to Spain and back again. They mainly drink and eat a lot. They also mock each other frequently and overuse words like “daunting” and “ironical” in their conversations. They enjoy the fiesta in Pamplona. During the fiesta, they watch the running of the bulls and a few bullfights. During the bullfights, Lady Brett Ashley becomes smitten with the bullfighter Romero. They run off together, but it doesn’t last. This story is pretty much a soap opera set against the backdrop of post-WWI Europe.
Because of its setting and its focus on what Gertrude Stein described as the “lost generation” of American expatriates living hedonistically in Europe after the Great War, this novel—Hemingway’s first—has been called one of the greatest works of American literature ever written. I do not necessarily agree, perhaps because of Hemingway’s trademark stark writing style and simple sentence structure, which I have attempted to reproduce in this review. It can get annoying, can’t it?