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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and powerful, one of the ten best novels of the 20th century
For Whom the Bell Tolls is quite simply one of the best novels ever written. Honestly, I had relatively low expectations before reading it. I read A Farewell to Arms and found the terse, repetitive prose and stilted dialogue underwhelming. For Whom the Bell Tolls is superior to A Farewell to Arms in every way. This is a complex novel with some of the most memorable...
Published on February 1, 2007 by J. Norburn

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What War Is Really Like
With vivid, descriptive prose, Hemingway takes us into the mind of a soldier. Focused on duty and his mission, our main character encounters love among the carnage, but even that does not sway him from his duty. Though at times a bit long-winded, Hemingway brings the internal battle of war to the surface. The self-talk that goes on shows the conflict behind the rough...
Published on January 14, 2011 by GTO


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and powerful, one of the ten best novels of the 20th century, February 1, 2007
By 
J. Norburn (Quesnel, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
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For Whom the Bell Tolls is quite simply one of the best novels ever written. Honestly, I had relatively low expectations before reading it. I read A Farewell to Arms and found the terse, repetitive prose and stilted dialogue underwhelming. For Whom the Bell Tolls is superior to A Farewell to Arms in every way. This is a complex novel with some of the most memorable characters in modern literature.

This mesmerizing novel neither glorifies war, not does it vilify it. Hemmingway's detached prose is world weary, exposing both sides of the conflict, allowing us to see that war, inevitable and futile, is never simple. Characters on both sides of the conflict struggle with their own fears and regrets. Both sides commit, and are subjected to, the atrocities and horrors of war. As different as each side may think they are from the other, in the end, they are all human and are not as different as they think.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is riveting and powerful, easily one of the ten best novels of the 20th century. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Whom The Bell Tolls, October 29, 2011
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Book Review by Benn Bell
The title "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is taken from a poem written by John Donne wherein he makes the claim that because of our common humanity, every death necessarily diminishes each of us, therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. This is a book about death and dying set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.
Hemingway's novels and stories present a certain kind of hero: "The Code Hero." This individual lives by his own code and struggles gracefully and bravely against death and annihilation. Another consistent theme found in Hemingway is courage under fire or dire circumstances, whether it is in the bull ring, behind enemy lines, or hunting man-eaters in the green hills of Africa. Cowardice is particularly loathed.
The novel begins in 1937 at the height of the Spanish Civil War and takes place over a four day period. The chief protagonist is an American named Robert Jordon who has been tasked to blow up a bridge behind enemy lines in the Spanish mountains. He is aided in this task by a band of guerrillas headed by Pablo and the woman of Pablo, Pilar. We also meet the beautiful Maria. A young Spanish girl whose parents were murdered by Fascists soldiers who then raped and abused Maria. Some say that Maria represents Spain and her gang rape represent the despoilage of Spain by the Fascists.
Robert and Maria fall in love at first sight. This is another recurring theme to be found in Hemingway, that humans can find salvation through romantic love. The couple makes love together in Jordon's sleeping bag on the ground outside the mouth of the cave where they are all hiding. He asks Maria "Did the earth move for thee?" This is the earliest I have seen this terminology in print and is now considered a cliché, but it may be that Hemingway coined this usage.
Hemingway's use of language was controversial in this novel. Many Spanish words and phrases were translated literally word for word which gave a sense of the Spanish but sounds archaic and stilted to our English hearing ears. For example, the Spanish characters in the novel referred to each other as thee and thou. The traditional second person singular in English is "thou/thee/thy". The most exact way of translating "tu" from Spanish is "thou" or "thee". This was a bold experiment. Once the convention was understood and accepted one got used to and even grew to like it.
During the course of the novel many flashbacks and digressions take place as various characters tell their stories and reminiscence about the past. We learn, for example, that Jordon's Grandfather was a Civil War hero in the America's war of rebellion. We also learned that his father was a coward and that he shot himself to death with a pistol. It is indeed ironic that Hemingway's own father committed suicide and that Hemingway took his own life with a shot gun many years later.
Death is the primary focus of the novel with much discussion amongst the characters about what it is like to kill another human being, was it the right thing to do and what would it be like to die. In the end, Jordon is fatally wounded after successfully completing his mission and trying to escape. He waits by the roadside while the others get away, hoping to kill as many of the enemy soldiers as he can before he dies.
It took me a long time to get around to reading this book. I have been carrying it around with me since 1971. I finally read it in 2011. Forty years. It was well worth the wait. While each man's death may diminish me to some extent, this novel has made me whole.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What War Is Really Like, January 14, 2011
By 
GTO (Phoenix, AZ) - See all my reviews
With vivid, descriptive prose, Hemingway takes us into the mind of a soldier. Focused on duty and his mission, our main character encounters love among the carnage, but even that does not sway him from his duty. Though at times a bit long-winded, Hemingway brings the internal battle of war to the surface. The self-talk that goes on shows the conflict behind the rough exterior. We also see the useless deaths that take place because of the uncertainties that come with war.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gotta love Hemingway, June 20, 2007
By 
Jonathan Carr (Portland Oregon) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The last time I read Hemingway's novels was some ten years ago in Spain. I thought I was pretty cool. I read "The Sun Also Rises and A Farwell to Arms." I don't recall what I thought of them. But one thing I do know is that it is sometimes difficult to separate the legacy or mystique of certain writers from the work at hand.

I thought most of the book was very well done. The reality of war was crafted in a way that compares well to more modern portraits of war ("The Things They Carried," "Apocalypse Now," "Deer Hunter," "Jarhead"). The true violence of humiliation, dehumanization, and violation are hauntingly evoked. There are scenes in this novel that I will not forget: the killing of the fascists in Pablo and Pilar's village, the rape of Maria and the murder of her parents, the death of Anselmo at the bridge. The portrayal of men and women, those who try to hold on to some sort of moral clarity and those who lose their bearings, was brilliant. When it comes to men at war, the book shines.

A technique that I found interesting was the way that Hemingway created the absent character of Kashkin. He serves as a counter point to Robert Jordan and as an example of all that could and eventually does happen. The absent character adds depth to the novel; it gives a skeleton upon which to hang the clothes of the past.

However, there were places in the book where I felt uncomfortable, like watching the awkward intimacies of adolescents. The love scenes in the book were failures. And I keep trying to figure out why.

One reason perhaps is that they happened without enough development. Like some romantic comedy, the two lovers see one another and almost instantly fall in love. Granted, the entire novel takes place in three days, but every other part of the narrative is carefully developed. Though the timeframe is compact, there is plenty of space in the narrative. The book is nearly 500 pages long. The sex, the declarations of love, the intimacy, it all seems hollow.

In every other place in the novel there is complexity, nuance. But when it comes to romance, to the issue of love, the novel falls into absolutes and clichés. Robert Jordan is too righteous in his love for Maria. He is too loyal, too gentle. They love each other fully and doubtlessly. And in a novel that creates such a real portrait of war and moral ambiguity; complexity in loyalty, politics, allegiance, nationality, and idealism, to offer the reader such an ordinary, pop-song rendition of love nearly justifies skipping every section where one sees the words "little rabbit."

Hemingway attempts to integrate language into the story by employing the occasional Spanish word along with an antiquated sort of English, full of thou and thee. This is supposed to simulate Catalan. But it does not work. It just makes characters that talk funny.

But of course, it is after all Hemingway. And everybody should read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hemingway at his best, August 1, 2006
It's difficult to point at one work of a writer like Ernest Hemingway and claim it to be the best, but that is the claim that I would make for "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

This is a story that captures both the true spirit and the doubtful minds of war. It portrays both courage and cowardice, in the beautifully descriptive words that Hemingway was known for. His main character Robert Jordan is an American college instructor who leaves his job to take part in the Spanish Revolution, with a strong conviction in his heart and truly believing that he can make a difference. The story encompasses a time frame of slightly less than three days, during which he plots to blow a strategic bridge at precisely the right time. In those three days he falls in love with a young Spanish girl in the encampment where he is awaiting that moment and is involved in a character conflict with one of the guerrilla fighters by the name of Pablo.

This is a well paced story and never boring, with action suspense and romance, all coming together in a setting where you can feel the cold and smell the forest in the way that only Hemingway can describe it. A splendid and beautifully told story that I would recommend to anyone of any age or gender. For that reason I would place "For Whom the Bell Tolls" at the top of the heap among all of his works.

In my opinion this great story is the pinnacle of Hemingway's talent. A must read for anyone interested in great literature.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A True Classic, June 30, 2002
By 
Veejer (Cape May, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
This novel is considered by most to be one of the great novels of the 20th Century, and its author to be one of the greatest authors of all time; there are undoubtedly reasons for this. Yet, Hemmingway is also considered to be a "love him" or "hate him" type. I tend toward the former, though he isn't one of my personal favorites.
The plot of this novel is relatively straightforward. American Robert Jordan, a member of the International Brigades fighting with the Republicans against the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War, is given the task of blowing up a bridge to prevent the Fascists from bringing up reinforcements to repel a Republican offensive. But while the plot is uncomplicated, the depth and breadth of Hemmingway's story telling are not. There are layers and layers of emotion, passion, and personal pain. You are transported to the mountains of Spain with Jordan and a band of Spanish guerilla fighters. The characters are so incredibly real, that you feel as though you could find their names in a history book. For those who have never read Hemmingway, I'd say give it a try.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I obscenity on thee!, December 27, 2003
By 
HardyBoy64 "RLC" (Rexburg, ID United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
It cracks me up how Hemingway refuses to write swear words and the word "obscenity" becomes a verb, ie. We are obscenitied!
The obvious Spanish syntax is interesting as well and I imagine that those not fluent in Spanish would find the English both twisted and awkward at times.(example, Hemingway writes, "For a favor, do this!, which seems a direct translation of "Por favor".
Another example is "How many years to you have?" (Cuántos años tienes) instead of the proper English "How old are you?". It's as if Hemingway wrote the dialogue in Spanish and then translated it word for word into English. I'm not sure if this is genious or annoying.
Regardless of this goofy English, the novel is a good read and I recommend reading it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hemingway at his best, September 2, 2002
By 
Scott Esposito "Readsalot" (Oakland, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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Ernest Hemingway - For Whom The Bell Tolls
For one who wants to read the book that has it all I recommend Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. Friendship, strife, security, terror, love, war, good, evil; this book has them all. It is the story of Robert Jordan, a sympathizer of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, whose duty is to lead a band of guerrillas in blowing up a bridge as part of a Republican offensive. Along the way Jordan will learn the revolting pasts of several of the guerrillas, fall in love with one of them, and spend quite some time meditating on "truths" he was once sure he knew.
No sooner has Jordan met with the guerrillas than he discovers that one of them, fearful of being hunted down by the fascist forces, stands against him and threatens to take the entire group away. This first taste of tension is mirrored several times over in Hemingway's gripping novel as Jordan's quest to destroy his bridge turns into a contemplation of whether his cause is truly worthy or not.
Much of what Jordan sees recommends the latter. Jordan's guerrilla partners are not simple adornments to his crusade; they all have livid pasts and he finds much to learn from them. Even as they curse and spit at the fascists several of these guerrillas communicate, through their stories, arguments against the futility and cruelty of the war they have willfully taken up. Others, too young to realize what they have gotten into, create commentaries on war through their naïve brashness.
Additionally the humanity of the guerrillas makes Jordan question the commands from his isolated, detached superiors. In time Jordan forms strong bonds with his friends and discovers that the thought of sending them into harm's way is not a simple abstraction. This is further complicated by a girl Jordan meets and falls in love with and Jordan's own questions about the worthiness of his orders.
Like Robert Jordan we, as readers of For Whom The Bell Tolls, are invited to meditate on many of the thoughts that so bother him. What need a person do to live a full life? How important is it to stay true to principles, even when fighting in vain? What are the limits of brutality? These are a few of the questions Hemingway grapples with in his book. The answers are so well bound with the narrative that often one hardly notices a metaphysical discussion has occurred, but those who give the text a second look will find a philosophical subtext as gripping as the plot line.
As for the story, Hemingway creates out of his assortment of characters a narrative of breathtaking beauty. For Whom The Bell Tolls has the power to move one to tears, wet hands with sweat, and force page after page of devoted reading. Hemingway's language is not the most beautiful, but in lieu of poetics his writing has the next best thing: crisp clarity.
Perhaps the best thing to say about For Whom The Bell Tolls is that at nearly 500 pages (which glide by in a snap), scarcely one has been wasted. It is a war novel laced with the drama of a Henry James piece and a drama lacerated with the carnage of war. In other words this fine book of Hemingway's manages to transcend two genres and end up at some unknown point in between, but certainly above both.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Every time you hear a bell ring, it means some angel's just got his wings." Francis Goodrich, November 11, 2011
This review is from: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Scribner Classics) (Hardcover)
Robert Jordan, an American, joins a guerrilla force fighting against the Facist government in Spain. It is 1937 at the peak of the Spanish Civil War and Jordan has been sent to blow up a bridge.

Jordan is a dynamiter who knows weapons and military strategies. Among the gurerillas is a young woman, Maria, who becomes attracted to him.

A man named Pablo appears to be in charge. However, it is his wife, Pilar, who is the real force behind the group. Pilar, is Spanish for pillar and is a symbol of the steadfastness of the group. During the early action of the story, it seems that Pilar's resolve for fighting has changed and he often resorts to drinking.

Amidst the talk of killing we follow the activities of Robert and Marie. This mixture of love and war is a significant juxtaposition used by the author. With the tender moments of these two characters, it is as if this might be what the guerrilas are fighting for. The government's totalarianism attitude cannot tell them what to do and that gypsies like Rafael, foreigners like Robert, women like Pilar and Marie can all work and live together as equals.

Hemingway has a master's givt for dialogue. We don't just read the words but are transported to the Spanish mountainside and are listening to the scenes such as Pilar and Pablo discussing a matador that Pable had seen and admired. It is so real that we can almost hear the crowd chant ole'.

Hemindway was a reporter in Spain during the Civil War and his characters are honest in their actions loyal to one another and Spain and are described in great detail.

The story mixes historical fact and speculative fiction in a most entertaining manner. Readers will enjoy the novel and feel as though they have read a work of extroadinary literary significance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the Finest Literature We Have, May 4, 2004
Evocative, tragic, brutal, bitter. Using the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s as his backdrop, Hemmingway critiques warfare from the political abstractions and distant generals to the individual lives it destroys, and renders all in frighteningly powerful detail with every crosscurrent coming to bear on each character in ways that are viscerally wrenching, complex and yet clear. Every shade of character and dynamic is captured as several dozen people act out a small part in a large conflict in the two-and-a-half days of a mission to blow a bridge.
Robert Jordan, an American in the volunteer brigades, arrives deep in the mountain wilderness of Spain with orders to recruit and employ the services of irregular militia hiding out there in the vicinity of a small bridge that will be key to an impending offensive. His task requires that he win the hearts and minds of these locals in order to secure their loyalty so that he might have an effective small force for carrying out his mission. But this group of people are of conflicting feelings and understandings about their place in the conflict and what it means to each of them. Some are wary and some callous, some dedicated to the fight and others only dedicated to themselves.
We have real people-Anselmo's natural and true goodness, Pilar and El Sordo's dedication, Pablo's treachery, Maria's repeated loss of innocence. We have the politics and forces behind it all-selfish and hollow, or abstracted until it's no longer human. And we have warfare-sudden death, alone in the mountains, alone with your last thoughts, with the smell of burning flesh, with your last blood running silently into the dirt.
Hemmingway spares us the simplistic narrative style of describing each character's feelings. Instead, he offers the scenes themselves with such insightful observation and flawlessly rendered detail that every one of the many conflicting shifts of allegiance happening in Pablo's scheming mind is writ in his every gesture and expression and telling silence. Neither the characters nor the narrator ever need discuss these in so many words. The tensions among the characters as they huddle in their cave hideout are a fascinating web of unexpected assessments of each other, shifts of power and influence, tactical and strategic wins and loses. Though never spoken of, the delicacy and danger of Jordan's human task is clear. As a contrast there is Maria, at first seeming too childish until we realize Jordan's love for her is love for lost innocence, and that she in turn-only seventeen-has every right to her emotional fragility and her desperation.
And then there is the war itself, and here again Hemmingway's powers of observation and prose composition startle. Every action bears on every other, and the individuals are placed firmly in context from the cave to the local mountains to the whole of Spain to the abstractions of global political movements. Without a syllable of pedantry the author draws the relationship between each detail of individual action and the whole of the conflict. And vice versa, with ideals or their absence making each person's motives a little different, and often making helpless puppets of them all.
There is very little in literature to compare with For Whom the Bell Tolls. It sees humanity at its very best and very worst simultaneously, and sees it directly in vivid, glimmering images and beautifully textured emotional nuance, without wordy narrative telling the reader what to think and when. The fact that Hemmingway yet controls our understanding with absolute ease and clarity is only half of the writer's art. His critique of warfare and its human toll, expressed in Jordan's arc of hope and tragedy and resignation, is as brutal as the fear and blood on the ground, and ultimately contemplates the interconnectedness of life and the sacrifices made to sustain it. "No man is an islande, intire unto itselfe... Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Among the finest literature we have.
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For Whom the Bell Tolls (Scribner Classics)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Scribner Classics) by Ernest Hemingway (Hardcover - June 10, 1996)
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