Monday, September 13, 2010

#17 - "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway

I have now finished reading Ernest Hemingway's first novel, and only novel on The List; The Sun Also Rises.  Myself, I'm a fan of Hemingway's writing style, but I know it isn't for everybody and I find people either love him or hate him.  I once recommended A Farewell to Arms, to someone, saying how great it was and how I couldn't put it down.  They returned it two days later, having read about thirty pages and saying they couldn't take it anymore.  I like it, but I can understand not liking Hemingway's style.

The Sun Also Rises is the story of ex-pat Jake, who lives in Paris and seems to lead quite the life of leisure, all whilst keeping a job with an English newspaper in the French capital.  His days are taken up with drinking, eating and meeting with friends; usually to continue eating and drinking.  They seem to lead the same lifestyle as the characters in Tropic of Cancer, who were also ex-pats, living in Paris, spending their time eating and drinking.  Hmmm...perhaps I should have been born around the turn of the century, so I could have moved to Paris in the 20's.  I too enjoy eating and drinking.

Looking for a break from Paris (not eating and drinking), Jake and his friends Bill, Robert and Lady Brett Ashley take a trip to Spain, to partake in the Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, which again involves eating and drinking, but also bull fighting.  Hemingway himself was a known fan of bull fighting, and this seems to be his ode to the sport.  He speaks eloquently of the majesty of bull fighting, and to be honest, reading this book has made me want to take in a fight myself.  While at the fiesta, Jake and his friends experience a roller-coaster of emotions, but despite the ups and downs, they all seems to have a good time in the end.  I could be more specific, but there isn't really any point.  In the end, not much really happens, but I still enjoyed reading it very much.  The story was still interesting, more as a result of the characters and Hemingway's short and to the point descriptions.  But like his other novels, I foresee a lot of people not liking this book at all, while others will praise it till the cows come home.

Now, I have a confession.  The entire time I was reading this book, I kept wondering why Jake and Brett didn't "hook up."  They both profess their love to each other several times throughout the book and they seemed to be very compatible together.  However, while Brett sleeps with almost every man she encounters, Jake never takes beds any women.  He even picks up a prostitute in Paris, but only takes her out for dinner and drinks.  Until the very end, I was still thinking the two would get together and perhaps live happily ever after, but alas, it never happened.  After I had finished the book, I began my secondary research on the novel and much to my surprise, I learned that Jake was impotent from a war injury, and hence, he wasn't hookin' up with anybody.  I don't know how I missed this, as every review I read, this was basically mentioned in the first line.

From Time Magazine:

"Meet Jake Barnes: working journalist, expatriate, tough talker, tragic hero. Jake was horribly wounded in the war — in fact, he was effectively gelded."


"The narrator of The Sun Also Rises is Jake Barnes, an expatriate journalist in his mid-twenties who lives in Paris. Barnes is impotent because of a war wound..."

Well, you get the idea.  Everybody seemed to have picked up on this except me, even Wikipedia!  Oh well, I guess I can't absorb everything, including major plot elements.  It makes a lot more sense now, knowing that two people, in love, we're never going to end up together, but didn't take away from the book, as I still enjoyed it.  I hope when I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I realize it isn't about Winston Smith's husky sibling.

You can read Time Magzine's original review from November 1, 1926 here.

My next book will be I, Claudius, the book I had intended to read had I not fogotten to take it with me to BC.


  1. Hi there. I too am embarking on this Time list, as of last Friday, and decided to read The Sun Also Rises. Good to read your review - I too didn't realise Jake was impotent - I caught the reference but thought he was joking...I was rooting for him and Brett to hook up, but only realised why after also reading the Wiki page...I was like, "oh so that's why..." Anyway. Look forward to reading your thoughts as I finish each book. Have you actually finished the list yet?

  2. Congratulations on starting the list! It´s been quite an experience for me so far. I´m currently reading my 71st book, "The Adventures of Augie March," so I still have quite a few to read!