I was incredibly surprised by the effect this book had on me. I’m in no way a fan-girl of Hemingway’s, but the name does come with certain gravitas and expectations. Those expectations were not met.
I can’t just bash the book because that would be both dishonest and close-minded, but I had a serious problem with the aimless meandering of the story. Perhaps I’m more of a Vonnegut kind of gal, because I do need the narration to move the story forwards, if only every few sentences. By the time I was 1/3 into The Sun Also rises I had the question of “Where the hell is this going?” playing over and over in my head.
I might be biased and influenced by the search and want for strong female characters in recent years, but I hated Lady Ashley and all her whimsies. Not because I was in any way “slut shaming” her but because of her portrayal after the fact. She never could help anything, and she’s constantly miserable and in trouble despite all the men throwing themselves and their money at her. If only the broad knew what the bloody hell she wanted! Then, even though she would constantly complain to Jake about it – whom, in the meantime, she manipulates just to keep a loyal puppy close – she never actually wants to talk about it. It probably is the difference between then and now, but it was hard for me to get over all her bullshit.
The men are equally meek and jaded – the latter probably the product of the post-war decadence – but they only raise their voices after they’ve raised their glasses several times. Granted, that is almost constantly the case, but then again the drunken confrontations can there easily be dismissed as just that, leaving them inconsequential. At the end of the day (or more often than not the night), no one has said almost anything of substance, has aired no real feelings, for his/her or anyone else’s benefit, and nothing is ever really resolved. The only such moment was when Jake was finally alone and free from his “friends” to actually enjoy his day.
I’m adding an extra star because there are indisputably gorgeous moments in scenery when describing both travelling through Paris at night and through the North of Spain during the day. The other very strong points for me were the corridas and everything around their organisation. That was, apart from the drinking, where the personality of Hemingway really shone through and lent vividness and passion to the writing. The corridas of the last day of the fiesta were the moment I was actually enthralled. I wish the book had ended with the excitement of the last day and the serenity of Jake’s couple of days alone back in France. The true ending, without spoiling anything, left me with that same irritation I felt throughout the book.