Five words from the blurb: WWI, horrors, nurse, loyalty, lovers
I hadn’t read any Hemingway so when I was offered the opportunity to review the new special edition of A Farewell to Arms I jumped at the chance. Fans of the book will love this new edition – it is beautifully produced, includes photographs of Hemingway’s revisions, and for the first time it brings together all 39 different endings considered by the author.
Unfortunately I discovered that I’m not a Hemingway fan. Some people describe his writing as “sparse”, but I think “wooden” is a more fitting description. It reads more like a poor quality translation than the work of an American Nobel laureate.
The central characters were flat and lacked emotion, a problem made worse by the fact this book is about World War I and contained many scenes that should have been disturbing.
Another problem was that the romance was unconvincing. I became so frustrated that I decided to abandon the book, but intrigued as to why it is an enduring classic I decided to read the Wikipedia plot summary. This revealed that the praise seems to revolve around the ending; so I picked up the book again and read the final section. I’ll admit that the ending was poignant and slightly more emotional than the earlier sections, but the writing quality was so poor that I failed to be moved.
This special edition contained 39 different endings, most just a paragraph long. It was interesting to read all the alternate endings and to see Hemmingway’s thought process as he changed things. It was also good to see photographs of the original manuscripts.
But despite all these wonderful extra features I’m afraid I can’t see why A Farewell to Arms is an enduring classic. If you’re a fan, please enlighten me!