Hemmingway began writing the novel on his birthday in 1925 and his first manuscript was finished two months after this, in September. The basis for the novel was on Hemmingway’s trip to Spain in 1925. Although the novel also visits Paris, the settings described in the novel are memorable, possibly based upon Hemmingway’s experience of living in Paris- when he was a young writer himself
The main storyline follows a group of American and British expatriates, who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights. This was an early modernist novel and received mixed reviews upon its publication.
The novel follows an underlying love story between Jake Barnes, the protagonist- and Lady Brett Ashley, a divorcée. Brett’s affair with Jake’s friend Robert Cohn upsets the protagonist and their friendship is broken off. Brett continues a long set of affairs with her seduction of Romero, a bullfighter- whom Jake introduces Brett to whilst they are in Pamplona for the fiesta. This leads Jake to lose his good reputation whilst he is in Spain and once the fiesta is over the characters finally take off on their own journeys. Jake begins to regret turning down Bill’s invitation to join him when he receives a telegram from Brett, telling him she is in trouble and to meet her in Madrid. The novel comes to an end when Jake finds that Lady Ashley has sent Romero away. The novel ends with a sense of dѐjà vu from the beginning as Brett and Jake get into a taxi and Jake finally gets to put his arm around Brett once again.
Rating 4*- This was the first Hemmingway novel that I have read so I did have high expectations. The novel was not quite what I expected although it was thoroughly engaging- the bullfights and fiesta in Spain being an exciting highlight of the book. The descriptions of the café’s around Paris and wine shops in Pamplona created an atmosphere and culture which added to the novels plot.
I was expecting the novel to have slow moving chapters but as soon as I read the first page I was hooked! Definitely worth a read, this novel has underlying gender topics- as Brett is described her feminine aspects are rarely mentioned she is shown to have more masculine features and always enters the scenes with her line ‘hello chaps’. Brett is by far one of the most interesting characters to pay close attention to when reading this novel.