Monday, 6 October 2014

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in the village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.

The next sentence is about the riverbed and pebbles and then with the third sentence of the first paragraph do we get the beginning of a hook:

Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust the raised powdered the leaves of the trees.

What's of interest is the troop movement and not the fact that they're making everything dusty. But this beginning is all about painting a picture of the scene, the fields and trees and weather before introducing character and conflict. But with the mention of troops the reader has something human to hold onto until concrete characters and conflict come, that is to say when the story actually starts, which doesn't take too long. It is mostly telling in chapter 1 and 2 which establishes the tone and mood. It tells of the struggles the fighting man had in World War 1, things like poor weather, disease, bullets.

First thing said:

"Priest today with girls."

Odd beginning of speech in any novel, as a captain picks on and bullies a priest as that is the only entertainment fighting men had. It's quite good and rather funny and is fairly early midway through chapter 2.

The opening line has no hook and is nothing to write home about, but by the end of the short chapter 1 it's possible for readers to get pulled in.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. A Farewell to Arms is considered the 73rd best novel of all time.

Theodore Moracht

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