The Sun also Rises

the sun also rises

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. Originally published in 1926. 251 pages.

I don’t often re-read books, and the few that I have re-read are ones that have spiritual implications. C. S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and similar authors can draw me back in for a second read. I rarely give fiction books other than Jane Austen a second look.

Since beginning this book blogging experiment, I re-discovered something quite obvious: that reading a book during different seasons of life changes the way you react to that book. This is true for novels as much as any other books. It was true for Their Eyes Were Watching God, and If Beale Street Could Talk, so I have begun revisiting many of the novels that I would have listed as among my favorites a decade ago or more. One of those is Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which I read when I was much less wise, worldly, relationally, or spiritually, than I am now. I still appreciate Hemingway’s prowess with words, but the characters annoyed me this time in ways that they didn’t 20 years ago.

Jake Barnes is an injured war veteran whose injury left him impotent. The ultimate irony is when he falls in love with Brett, the nurse who cared for him as he recovered from his injuries. She is also a woman who very much in touch with her sensual nature. She loves him she declares, but not enough to resign herself to a sexless existence. The rest of the novel is a torturous journey with Jake through his adventures and friendships drinking and pining away after Brett throughout Spain.

Meanwhile, Brett drifts from lover to lover, breaking hearts and taking names then returning to Jake to pick up the pieces of the messes she leaves in her wake. At the end of the novel, her startling lack of self-awareness dawns on Jake:

“Oh Jake,” Brett said, “We could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly, pressing Brett against me.
Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Brett, after all that they have experienced, seems to believe that but for Jake’s injury, they would have had a wonderful life together. It strikes Jake as absurd as any of the things that had happened to that point.

Reliving the narrative of strong, gallant male characters employing strength and competence in every arena from the battlefield to the bull-fighting ring only to be felled by one little woman was a different experience than years prior. I don’t know that my understanding or opinions of the characters is different, just better perceived than before.

This is still one of my favorite novels, precisely because of the raw honesty Hemingway displays with the faults and virtues, such as they were, in his characters.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “The Sun also Rises

  1. smkoseki says:

    …was a different experience than years prior. I don’t know that my understanding or opinions of the characters is different, just better perceived than before. This is still one of my favorite novels

    I was fine with this review but you just whetted my appetite on this part! I was a big fan of For Whom Bell Tolls but I was painfully melancholy/agnostic about females in my 20’s. I find H distressing now…his male/female story line feels noir like LA Confidential and makes me feel hopeless…

    Like

  2. Maeve says:

    I love this book. For the last year or so, I’ve been reading fiction set in the period from just before the Great Way through the 1930’s. This one always makes me cry for the characters loss of life – and it really is that – they can’t ever live the lives they might have if not for the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elspeth says:

    Yes, you do get the sense that but for the war, these people would have been much happier.

    Of course, at the end of it all, Jake isn’t that convinced that he and Brett could have rode happily off into the sunset if he hadn’t been injured.

    The forlorn characters in this book just wander from place to place trying to find anchors for their souls and never quite get there.

    Liked by 1 person

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