Recently I read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway for the second time; predictably, my love-hate relationship with this classic American writer continues.
When I First Read
I first read this classic American novel in April 2015, almost exactly one year before I reread it again in April 2016. I had read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms for English class during my junior year of high school and didn’t really enjoy it, so this was my way of giving Hemingway another chance. As you can tell by my first review, his writing still didn’t click with me.
Spain. Bull-fighting. A lot of drinking. Parties. Choppy, terse writing. The Lost Generation. My memories of this novel were a blur of these various elements, accompanied by my negative impressions of it. I tried to go into this reread with an open mind and push those past judgments away, but it was difficult to do completely.
Why I Wanted to Reread
The Sun Also Rises was assigned reading for my Cultural Diversity in American Literature class this past semester. At first I was disappointed (I would have to suffer through it again?!) but over time I actually looked forward to giving it a second chance.Because I read it on my own the first time around, I suspected that there was a lot I had missed. I hoped that class discussions and my professor’s enthusiasm would rub off on me and transform me into a devoted Hemingway fan– or, at the very least, help me appreciate his writing a bit more.
I’m just not destined to love this book.
Overall, I certainly enjoyed it more than I did when I first read it; however, there’s just something about this novel that I simply can’t click with.
One positive outcome of rereading The Sun Also Rises is that I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Hemingway’s writing. My professor described his choppy, short, minimalist writing style as an iceberg: there’s so much more beneath the surface than will ever show on the page. In other words, what he doesn’t say is more important that what he does. His explanation shifted the way I read Hemingway’s work, allowing me to look past the narrative itself to the core of what he was trying to get across. One of the more obvious examples of this is Jake’s injury, for Hemingway never directly identifies his wound by name. If you don’t pick up on what his war injury actually is, then chances are that you’re missing a lot of the tension between Jake and Brett. In this way, the story is also more complex than I initially thought.
Most of the characters in this novel are quite unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interesting to read about. Brett fascinated me the most, for she straddled both the masculine and feminine spheres of society. She calls people “chaps” as though she is one of the men, yet she is also produced as “sexually promiscuous,” a trait that is stereotypically feminine. It’s almost as though she is an androgynous character, neither male nor female but seemingly both at the same time. This portrayal of a woman is another example of how Hemingway conveys a lot by actually saying very little.
Despite my newfound appreciation for the fascinating and complex nuances of The Sun Also Rises, I just never became invested in the story. For me, this is one of those books I enjoy thinking about rather than actually reading, if that makes sense. I admire the challenge it poses to me as a reader, but I would never pick this novel up for purely pleasurable, entertaining purposes.
Would I Reread Again?
Hmmm… Probably not, unless I have to read it for another class or have a friend who is willing to read it with me. I might try picking up some of Hemingway’s other work, but I think The Sun Also Rises and I may have seen the last of each other.
My Previous Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5 smileys
My Current Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys (Some improvement!)
While I’m still not completely sold on Hemingway’s writing, I must admit that I did enjoy this novel more the second time around.
What are your thoughts on The Sun Also Rises? Do you enjoy rereading books? Would you recommend any of Hemingway’s other works? Let me know in the comments section below!