For Whom The Bell Tolls

Author: Ernest Hemingway
Publisher: Vintage
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: April 6th to 16th, 2014
Review:
Oh, Hemingway. Is it you or is it me? I don’t know why but I can’t feel anything above mild acceptance that your novels are okay. Are you just not as good as you’re cracked up to be, or do I just not understand your genius? And do I keep reading until I work it out?

Robert Jordan (not just Robert, never Robert, but Robert Jordan) is a Spanish teacher who has become involved in the Spanish Civil War as a dynamiter. He has to blow up a bridge with the help of a band of guerillas living in a cave somewhere in Spain. The world as he knows changes when he falls in love with Maria, who was adopted by the band after they blew up a train.

First off, the dialogue was frustrating to read. With so many thous and thees and thys you would’ve thought you were reading Shakespearian but actually the translation of Spanish to English translates better that way than to modern English, apparently. The problem is, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the narrative. I don’t know how else to explain it except it doesn’t fit. Just reads wrong. The other thing about the writing style is that while it is written in the third person, the reader spends a lot of time in Robert Jordan’s head. Which is not always an exciting place to be as he often argues with himself and goes off on crazy tangents that don’t always feel relevant or crucial to the story. It’s hard to stay interested.

I struggled to get into the story mainly because it felt like the point, the blowing up of the bridge, was so far away and without it there was so little to keep the plot moving. I also found it hard to connect with the characters – none of them really did anything for me. I wasn’t at all moved by this book until the very end. At the end the imagery of Robert Jordan lying on the ground with his leg at an unnatural angle and with his submachine gun pointed at Lieutenant Berrard was just so vivid and so real in the my mind – if the whole novel was more like the last page, my rating would have been very different.

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