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107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE novel of the twentieth century? Plus - a warning...
Seven decades after the intial publication, A Farewell to Arms now seems to be the Hemingway novel that gets the most attention and many readers new to Hemingway are probably drawn to it for their initial exposure to the author. Normally, starting off with a writer's best book might be a good approach, but not in this case. A Farewell to Arms, while Hemingway's...
Published on August 26, 2000 by William A. Owen

48 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Hemingway's Best
I read this in high school about twenty years ago, and recently decided to revisit this work. I think this is an important thing to do. As our lives change, quite often the meaning of great books change to us also, and we can gain an even richer experience. I am sorry to report that this is not the case with this novel. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I would...
Published on May 29, 2000 by Paul McGrath

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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad Hemingway at its best, December 23, 2011
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
This is a book about the war.
It is a fine book.
Reading this book was grand.
But then came the parts that were not fine and reading them was not grand.
It began to rain
I asked the waiter to please bring me a vermouth.
Charlotte said "Darling, will you please, please, please, please, please, please, please stop saying please?"
"And promise me you wont lie to me anymore, darling."
"I promise", I lied.
The waiter brought choucroute.
It looked like a skinned rabbit.
I walked back to the hotel in the rain.
It was swell.

OK everybody has their faux Hemingway and that was mine. Now that it's out of the way, here's my review. I first read AFTA about ten years ago and thought whoa, this reads like bad Hemingway. And probably the best bad Hemingway I've read by which I mean the prose seems like a caricature of his famous style. Since then I've read a number of books on WWI and some more Hemingway. It occurred to me that maybe I had been too harsh on Papa and gave AFTA a second read. Verdict: It's worse than before. This isn't really a good war story or love story. I don't really know what it is. It's Hemingway using his war experience to write like Hemingway. But then, he's a writer and this is what they do.

My Reccs.
1) If you want to learn about WWI, start with non fiction i.e. "A.J.P Taylor or John Keegan. Don't start with The Guns of August- nice book but arcane, idiosyncratic and tangential. Plus it only covers the first month.
2) If you prefer novels, try Pat Barker's trilogy, Faulk's Birdsong or even Anne Perry's 5 part series starting with "No Graves As Yet". Historical fiction at its best.
3) If you prefer memoires, try Sassoon' Memoires of an Infantry Officer, Robert Graves "Goodbye to All That" or Blunden's "Undertones of War".
4) If you want to know about combat from the soldier's view, try Under Fire, Storm of Steel or The Somme.
5) If you want to know what the ambulance driver's life was like (which Hemingway was), I prefer "Not so Quiet". For the nurse's view, try Britton's "Testament of Youth" which I haven't read but has great reviews.
6) If you want to read the first novels written about WWI, "All Quiet on the Western Front" is excellent.
Lastly, if you just want to read Hemingway, try The Sun Also Rises or any of his first 50 short stories.

The only two reasons I can think of to read this book are: a) you're taking a course and its on a required reading list; or b) your tastes are different from mine (entirely possible) and you are swayed by the 5 star reviews, in which case you might like the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once Groundbreaking; Now Commonplace, March 20, 2009
With his simple-sentence constructions and very direct storylines, Ernest Hemming way (1899-1961) exploded the conventions of the elaborate and ornate Victorian and Edwardian novel--and changed the course of literature. Originally known as a reporter and a short story writer, Hemmingway first struck a nerve with the 1926 THE SUN ALSO RISES, but it was really with the 1929 A FAREWELL TO ARMS that he exploded in the public mind.

Very loosely based on his own experiences as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, Hemmingway's FAREWELL effectively debunked earlier and highly romantic notions of military glory and honor by presenting the war as dirty, ugly, and largely without point--and then balancing this portrait against a love affair that has more meaning for the characters than the war ever can.

The story is narrated by Frederic Henry, who meets and attempts to seduce an English nurse named Catherine Barkley. The relationship seems trivial at first, but when Henry is wounded and Catherine becomes his nurse the two fall deeply in love. When Henry returns to battle, however, he finds it meaningless in comparison to his love for Catherine, and a disastrous retreat convinces him that the war is futile. He deserts, determined to take Catherine to the safety of Switzerland. But their escape from the war proves as futile as the war, becoming a commonplace tragedy.

1929 readers found A FAREWELL TO ARMS shockingly different from other novels of the day--and therein lies the problem. The novel is a victim of the very trend it began: read today, it seems at best ordinary because we are used to the anti-heroes playing out tales of disillusionment in direct prose. In terms of "the World War I novel" it suffers a great deal in comparison with Remarque's 1928 masterpieces ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT; in terms of internal style, it suffers from its own very dour seriousness. Ultimately, A FAREWELL TO ARMS is more important for the style it broke and the style it began than for itself. Recommended primarily to those tracking the evolution of the 20th Century novel.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I prefer his short stories, November 5, 2004
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
The writing style is 'The New Yorker''s wet dream: self-conscious, overwritten, and smart. At novel length, over-written becomes, to me, truly over-written. "The Snows of Kilamanjaro" ranks in my top 5 short stories. I love his style; I love his writing. But this novel goes on and on and on. I hadn't read it before, and though I recall loving "The Sun Also Rises" long ago, I had to start skimming about 3/4 way through "A Farewell to Arms." It was too repitious. I don't mean it isn't wonderful in many ways, but how much of the same tone, style, content can we read before it begins to feel tedious?

Per the other comments, and official review: I'm surprised by this being called "sparse prose." One of the more striking and interesting elements is his use of run-on sentences -- truly, run-on sentences, complete with many uses of the word "and." He does this in such an interesting way, it's really sort of awe-inspiring. Very interesting.

I wouldn't call Henry detached or nihilistic as others have; I think he's stoic. I think his greatest personality trait is his stoicism in the face of great adversity. This, in conjunction with the writing style, makes the book.

I much prefer the war chapters to the "love" chapters. Since I didn't feel Henry falling in love, I felt little for their interaction until the end. Though, again, all elements become rather tedious. The chapters go something like this: war, war, hospital, love, war, war, war, love.... So I skimmed (I hate skimming). Then, at the end, the last few chapters are genuinely suspenseful. The end is breathtaking. The person who reads detachment here, I believe, is missing the emotional impact.

But -- this same end, this same style, can be found in his shorter works, and one doesn't need to skim or become bored. So I recommend buying a book of short stories, if you've become Hemingway-dismayed after reading this book, yet still hold out hope. The dialogue is far more interesting to read when not novel-length, in my opinion. (Agreed, too much alcohol for my taste -- but, it is what it is, and I always value the time in history, the place and person from where the art came.)

Four stars for sheer talent. And for documenting WWI through fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but..., June 21, 2004
Sabra (Minnesota, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
I've heard it said before that you either love Hemingway or you hate him. In the past, I was a staunch supporter of the 'hate' side, but after reading A Farewell to Arms, I moved to the 'this is better than some things, but not what I'd choose first' side. In other words, I appreciate his talent and what his style did for modern writing, but it's still not something that's utterly enjoyable to me.
A Farewell to Arms is written in classic Hemingway style: sparse, often drab, and littered with often confusing conversations which have to be read three times in order to sort out who said what. A Farewell to Arms is written from the viewpoint of Frederick Henry, a young American in the Italian army during WWI. The book follows Henry's relationship with Catherine Barkley, a young nurse, as well as his life in the Italian army.
A Farewell to Arms is a grim book. I felt very 'gray' when reading this novel; the work in its entirety points to the brutal realities of war and the frailty of anything in the face of it. This novel is semi-autobiographical, as Hemingway himself served as an ambulance driver in the Italian army, and this personal experience seems to have lent Hemingway the ability to very clearly capture WWI.
The parts I enjoyed most were the stream-of-consciousness passages, for which Hemingway has a particular talent. The genius of these passages is that Frederick Henry's drunken stream-of-consciousness is written much differently than his sleepy stream-of-consciousness.
The main reason I didn't find this book particularly enjoyable is that I couldn't find a connection to the main characters. Frederick Henry came off as a bit stiff and average to me; there was nothing particularly engrossing about him to make me care whether he lived happily ever after or got blown to kingdom come. Critics have also pointed to Hemingway's lack of dynamic female characters, and I found Catherine Barkley to be no exception. Beautiful and submissive, she easily falls for Frederick Henry, who in my opinion is no prize.
So there you have it. There is no argument that A Farewell to Arms is classic literature, and with good cause, but I maintain that if you're looking for something really entertaining, this novel is not the place to start.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Farewell to a Five-Star Review, August 20, 2001
A Reader (Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
For a writer at the tender age of 30, Hemingway sure knows how to set the stage. The problem is, he doesn't know how to what to do with his characters. Lieutenant Henry and his love, Catherine, were so intangible that I hardly shed a tear at the novel's "tragic" conclusion. I just couldn't make myself relate to them. I also find that the whole "love story" was a little far-fetched. After knowing each other for over six months, Catherine asked her lover whether or not his father was alive. You would think that after such a long time, the two would have plenty of time to discuss things of such importance. Although Catherine's devotion for Mr.Henry was pretty convincing, his output seemed a little short. One wasn't sure where he made the transition from not planning to love her at all to wanting to be with her all the time. (If you want to read a really convincing love story, read Erich Segal's poignant work, "Love Story"). Not only was the couple in question rather questionable, but the minor characters lacked, well, character. It was difficult to distinguish Mr. Henry's "war buddies" from one another, having only dialouge to rely on.
Having that said, "A Farewell to Arms" was overall a good read. Despite the fact that I was unable to sympathize with the characters, I found myself to be entranced with Mr. Henry's tale. It was quite exciting, and I always waited for his return to Catherine, and for their playful,(although somewhat silly) dialouge. Up until the end of the tale, I was satisfied. Only after the "tragedy" did all the minor problems come shame-facedly to the surface. I would recommend this book to any lover of classics, but if you're looking for a war story, this clearly isn't the book for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic story about love during wartime., January 23, 2005
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
I love Ernest Hemingway's writing, and have read a number of his books. This is probably one of the books that he is most well-known for. The story is set on the Italian front of World War I, and it tells the story of two star-crossed lovers. Hemingway's themes for each of his books are so realistic because he experienced a lot of the things he wrote about himself. That's what makes his books so wonderful. Hemingway did not have a good opinion of war, and these thoughts come through loud and clear in this book. The story is about Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American who has volunteered to serve with an Italian ambulance unit during World War I. Catherine Barkley is the nurse whom Frederic nicknames "Cat", and who he falls in love with. Hemingway's other characters are all equally well-drawn. His plot and his description of scenes is also wonderful Hemingway uses his descriptions of place as allegories to human well-being and luck. Hemingway associates the plains and rains with death, disease and sorrow, and the mountains and the snow with life, health and happiness. His two lovers experience happiness and safety in the mountains, but they cannot stay there indefinitely, so when they go back to the plains, bad things happen to them. A Farewell to Arms appears to be a bleak tale, but it delineates probably more than any other of Hemingway's works his fatalistic attitude to life and death. Hemingway is a wonderful author, and his works are well worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the praise is true..., January 27, 2002
"littleoldme" (Fort Collins, CO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
I can't even begin to emphasize the tremendous merits of this novel. Hemingway's writing style, to begin with, is ridiculously good here. This was written at arguably the pinnacle of his career, and it shows; his writing has never been more genuinely innovative and dense. Hemingway's writing is known for the minimalism and tough sentences, but there's an incredible amount of depth behind the phrasing. Also, the themes of the novel (war, loss, courage, loyalty) are expressed so vividly that one can't help but sit in spellbound silence when you read. As an anti-war novel, "A Farewell to Arms" succeeds wildly (particularly effective is the encounter with the other Italian troop), and as a love story, Henry and Catherine's romance is devastating.
"The Old Man and the Sea" and "The Sun Also Rises" were both fantastic, but "A Farewell to Arms" is even better. Picture all of the varying emotions of those novels intensified beyond belief, and add a writing at the apex of Hemingway's output, and you've got a genuine masterpiece on your hands. This is astonishing - arguably one of the best novels ever written.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Very Happy Farewell To This Book And Hemingway Forever, October 26, 2005
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
I will never understand how this book became a classic. If I slaughtered the English language the way Hemingway did I wouldn't have graduated high-school. As far as reading level goes I hold A Farewell To Arms right up with "See Spot Run". However, the difference between those two books is that the latter did not contain endless run on sentences. Also, I personally feel that Spot is a much more compelling character than the protagonist in A Farewell To Arms. Many tragic events happen to Hemingway's character but you never once get a glimpse of how this affects him emotionally. The other characters in this book also fail to be anything more than names on a piece of paper. The dialogue is stiff and void of emotion. I seriously doubt that people in the 1920's talked like this. This is basically what the dialogue is like (this is not an actual excerpt):

Catherine: "You do love me don't you, Darling?"

Henry: "Yes"

"I love you, Darling."

"I know."

"You really do love me though don't you, Darling."


"Do you love me as much as the other girls you've been with, Darling."


"How many other girls have you been with? Don't tell me I don't want to know, Darling. How many though, Darling?"

"I had the gonorrhea but I did not have the syphilis."

"I wish I had the gonorrhea so I could be like you, Darling."

"Rinaldi believes he has the syphilis....."

I am not making up that part about Catherine's reaction to Henry's gonorrhea. I remember it clearly because it was probably the juiciest part of the book. Having said all that I have almost forgot why I gave this book more than one star. Here it is: Hemingway really was in WWI and he does give us a glimpse of it though shallow and uninspired.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hemmingway - more than the sum of its parts, January 12, 2007
Anonymous (Pullman, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
Hemingway's third novel (following The Torrents of Spring, 1924 and The Sun Also Rises, 1927), A Farewell to Arms is an engaging yet bleak account of the Italian front during World War I. The story begins with Frederic Henry, an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army, questioning his involvement in a war that he does not believe in nor fully understands. First faced with the ravages of war and later in a battle to be with his true love, Henry struggles to maintain his identity and purpose while grappling with the conflict that surrounds him. Early on, he is injured on the front and subsequently falls in love with a British nurse, Catherine Barkley, while convalescing at a hospital in Milan. Henry returns to the front only to join the retreat following the historical Italian loss at the Battle of Caporetto. Henry soon finds himself at odds with Italian loyalist extremists and is forced to flee into the Italian countryside. Later, he struggles to reunite with Catherine while avoiding the extremists, each eager to lay blame for the Italian loss on officers, deserters, and foreigners - all of which describe Henry. Although a great example of the timeless war novel for which Hemmingway became famous, A Farewell to Arms is more a story about the trials of love and Hemmingway's own pessimistic view that happiness is fleeting and loss and death will always win out in the end.

Hemmingway's style is unmistakable - a sparse, almost mechanical brevity that he apparently learned while a reporter during his early career. This brevity is deceptively simple in that his often short, somewhat choppy sentences evolve into complex paragraphs and chapters that truly become greater than the sum of their parts. A gripping example of this in A Farewell to Arms is when Henry, following a narrow escape from armed captors, finds himself safe but worn, hungry and alone:

"I was not made to think. I was made to eat. My God, yes. Eat and drink and sleep with Catherine. To-night maybe. No that was impossible. But to-morrow night, and a good meal and sheets and never going away again except together. Probably have to go damn quickly. She would go. I knew she would go. When would we go? That was something to think about. It was getting dark. I lay and thought where we would go. There were many places." p. 223.

Hemmingway doesn't have his characters say what they feel. He makes the reader feel it the way the characters feel it. We as readers experience how exhaustion and fatigue strain Henry's body and mind and we can feel his longing to be away from that moment by envisioning a near-future with the one he loves. This style has been said to characterize American writers since Hemmingway, but none that I have encountered seem to master the art in the way he did. A Farewell to Arms, being Hemmingway's sophomore attempt, is not the striking success of The Sun Also Rises, nor the epic war novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Never the less, this story is a gripping, and ultimately a heart breaking but readable tale, in the style that would come to define a great author.

On a more personal note, it is well known that Hemmingway struggled with depression, identity issues and alcoholism throughout his life. These themes are vividly evident in his writings. Hemmingway's works have been criticized for romanticizing war, an underlying theme of misogyny, and a sentimentality out of touch with a changing world. I find these characteristics more a charmingly human quality rather than a fault. To see these problems and to see their roots in a troubled writer, opens a window into the human struggle and opens a mirror to our own personal struggles with life. For these and other reasons, Ernest Hemmingway is perhaps one of my favorite authors and one I reflect on in my own endeavors - not as someone to emulate, but as someone to learn from and appreciate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching story, March 8, 2003
R. Graff (South Windsor, CT United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Farewell To Arms (Paperback)
This was the first time I read a book by hemingway, and I loved it. Don't mistake me...this wasn't an easy read. Hemingway has a style that isn't that easy to adapt to. He uses very simple words and phrases, and is a master at using dialogue. But no matter how you try to argue, a good book is a good book.
This book tells the story of an ambulance driver, Lieutenant Henry, and his love affair with the nurse, Catherine, while being involved with World War One. They suffer many bumps in the road, and we are also shown the bad side of war, and how it is pointless.
This is a wonderful novel. I will definitely try Hemingway again, but only after a little break. Yes he wrote well, but it's not easy reading.
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A Farewell To Arms
A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Paperback - June 1, 1995)
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