I belong to a book club, and we've been reading classics that we somehow missed in high school and college. Given that I was an English/creative writing major, it always surprises me what I missed. We just finished reading A Farewell to Arms. It's my first Hemingway novel. I've read a few short stories, but nothing longer. I owned The Old Man in the Sea, but could never get anywhere in it when I was a teenager.
A Farewell to Arms is a very easy read, but for me it was... odd. Endless descriptions of countryside that doesn't come into play in the story. And what's up with the bizarre repetitious dialogue? I swear, if that chick says she'll make him a good wife one more time, darling, I'll shoot her myself. I never could connect to a single character, because I never saw anything recognizable in any of them that I could latch onto, and I don't do well with books where I can't get emotionally involved. Call it a casualty of growing up on opera... I need to care and care deeply. And besides, the heroine was nuttier than Kirby's mother's fruitcake. What the heck did our hero see in her? Their whole love story baffled me. I literally sat there sometimes, brow wrinkled, wondering if these characters were supposed to be for real. And then the book just sort of peters out and ends... I think I'm just far too straight-forward and literal for a book like this. And as usual with something classic and highly praised that I don't get... it makes me feel stupid. Like clearly, I've missed the genius that's obvious to the rest of the world, and I'm the dolt in the corner with the dunce cap. (Poetry is the main literary offender in making me feel stupid. I just don't get poetry. But famous authors will sometimes make me go away and hide my tears of shame too.)
Speaking of opera, my favorite parts were whenever opera was mentioned. I loved the little bits about the tenor trying to get an engagement to sing at la Scala, and having chairs thrown at him during performances. Now that I buy! And I liked Rinaldi probably the best of the characters. I perked up watching the Italian army come apart at the seams during its retreat, gruesome as it was. Finally, some plot kicked in! But I simply never could engage enough with the hero and his loony-tune nurse to care about them.
I am slightly curious to see one of the movie versions, just to see if they're any more engaging. Despite all that, I'm really glad I finally got to sample a Hemingway novel. But as of now, Hemingway is not an author who meshes with my needs as a reader.