Reviewing a Classic: For Whom The Bell Tolls – 3(ish) out of 5

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.

I first read that quote graffiti’d on a bathroom stall at College Library at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Man, I miss that place.

Anyway, this line turns up in the last few pages of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s pretty much the only line I enjoyed reading. It’s a good line on its own, but I think my nostalgia helped. Otherwise who knows if I would have even noticed it.

But¬†this book was hard to get though. I probably would have given up but I promised myself I would give Hemingway a second chance. I mean, he loved Spain and I love Spain. And my husband and I just bought a house in Oak Park, Illinois, where Hemingway was born. It’s blasphemous for me to not like him. I do not like him.

Here’s the thing – this book, it’s not like the story is bad. It’s quite decent in fact. There’s Robert Jordan, foreigner, who’s working with a guerrilla Spanish group during the Spanish Civil War. The story talks about their relationships and what it’s like to try to complete a very hard order. I find the relationships sudden and shallow, but overall, it’s interesting.

The problem is, Hemingway mucks it all up with his writing! That’s right, I’m going out there and I’m going to say it. I don’t care what his reputation is, I don’t care that he’s a famous writer and I’m just some shmoe. Hemingway’s dialogue sucks. It’s stilted, doesn’t represent actual development between characters, and to top it off, it’s all full of thys and thees and back-asswards crap wording.

I get it, I speak Spanish too, Hemingway, and I realize that the Spanish language will use formal terms that would, I suppose, directly translate to thee and thy. The thing is, though, we don’t use that in English so it sounds stunted and annoying. And some things are false cognates, Sir, and it’s really annoying to read “I did not mean to molest you.” When in Spanish the verb “molestar” means to bother, not physically grope someone. The direct translation of all of the dialogue is obnoxious and unnecessary.

Okay, sorry, I know that the language has changed through the years and it likely didn’t read as awkward when he wrote it as it does now but it’s still annoying. Because the rest is good. When Robert Jordan is just thinking all normal in his head it can be downright interesting. But that’s maybe 10 pages out of 400. This book was torture.

It’s only the last few pages that held some redemption for me in the story. At the end, as we were back in his head, I had a few feels. So that’s why this made it to a shaky 3 stars.

Overall, if you’re going to try Hemingway, put up this book and read three pages. If you’re annoyed, STOP reading. It will not get better. If it doesn’t annoy you, or should I say molest you?, give it a shot, you’ll probably like it.

Anyway. At least Oak Park is home to Betty White, too. Now that is a celebrity I can stand behind!

Categories: Put Downs, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Reviewing a Classic: For Whom The Bell Tolls – 3(ish) out of 5

  1. This is a quality critique, and perhaps you may enjoy reading “A Moveable Feast.” It has all the splendor of Hemingway without what some may consider boredom.

  2. Pingback: 2014 End Of Year Book Survey | Ashley Lauren

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