Book Review: A Farewell To Arms

‘No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful…’

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Ernest Hemingway has long been a favourite of mine so it is quite surprising that I have only just finished A Farewell To Arms what with it being one of his more famous works. I must admit that it took me longer to get into Hem’s First World War novel than it did Death in the Afternoon or A Moveable Feast for example but once I inevitably became engrossed it became the Hemingway novel that affected me the most.

It is next to impossible to single out one book, film or band as your favourite ever but if I had to pick a book then it would be Catch 22. The fact that A Farewell To Arms is a clear and obvious influence of Joseph Heller’s seminal novel only added an extra level of enjoyment for me and a lot of the characters such as the uncomfortable priest and the sex obsessed soldiers are reincarnated in various guises throughout Catch 22.

Hemingway captures the exhaustion and desperation of serving in the Great War and his detached staccato writing style only helps to convey the horror. The simplicity of his prose exposes the brutal truth behind all war. When the protagonist speaks of his lover, Hemingway’s writing comes to life however. **SPOILER** The frantic and heartbreaking ending is difficult to get through, especially as A Farewell To Armsnever feels like a tragedy until the very end.

Hemingway is perhaps the greatest ever writer to tackle the first world war and A Farewell To Arms is an unforgettable testament to an unbelievable writer. It is no surprise that both Hemingway and his most famous work are still massively influential today. Hemingway is often derided as being too functional and lacking in emotion but the passages describing love in A Farewell To Arms are as soppy as any Mills & Boon novel but the authenticity that Hem brings to his writing laces these moments with gravitas.