Book Review: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

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I was in eighth grade when I fell violently and happily into Ernest Hemingway’s writing. We were reading his famous novella, The Old Man and The Sea, and I remember everyone in my class hating it. I loved it, though. Here we were, reading what I understood as literature, and not only was it about an interesting subject (a washed-up fisherman trying desperately to catch and keep a giant fish alone in the open ocean), but it was accessible. My eyes flew over the pages, and I couldn’t stop myself from getting lost in the words.

Authors have been trying to write like Hemingway for years for a reason: his writing is legible. You can understand what he’s trying to say. It’s that brilliant writing that not only says something worthwhile or meaningful but says it in a way that you can grasp without having to open up a dictionary.

Hemingway was my favorite author until I became a feminist and started reading Haruki Murakami (who is not a feminist, either, but I still like him). Hemingway isn’t known for writing well about women, and he wasn’t always the best in his relationships with women in real life. Still, I come back to his books because they have something to say, even if it isn’t always my favorite way of saying it. Plus, it’s a joy to read stories that are well-written but still easy on my tired eyes and blessedly not that long. That’s why I decided to re-read The Sun Also Rises during quarantine.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Sun Also Rises gets right: I’ve read this book maybe twice, when I was in high school and wanted to read everything Hemingway had ever written. I’ve got to say that reading it as an adult was very different. Suddenly all of the subtext made sense to me, and not really in a good way. For example, one of the main characters, Brett, is impulsive and promiscuous, hurting every man in her path. However, when we learn about her background as a victim of domestic abuse, her current actions seem like coping mechanisms instead of just selfishness. Hers is a sad story- in fact, most of the characters in this book are sad due to their physical and emotional scars from past problems. That’s why they treat one another so badly.

Although it made for a sad read, it was good to learn more about each character and put two-and-two together about the hints that Hemingway left in this book. The main themes are unrequited love, struggling with feelings of uselessness, dealing with alcohol addiction, and the thrills of traveling and experiencing other cultures. You will feel like you, too, are in Spain with this wild group of people- for better or for worse.

 

What The Sun Also Rises gets wrong: This book is infamous for the characters’ anti-Semitic views. Even if it is an accurate representation of the time, it’s still not fun to read about the slurs and racism shown toward the Jewish character, Robert Cohn.

There are a few minor characters who are black, but they are more stereotypical caricatures than real people, and this “casual” racism will make you squirm. A racial slur is used to reference the black characters.

 

Who should read The Sun Also Rises: Fans of crisp writing, weird characters that are loosely based on real people, lots of drama, and the 1920s.

 

Who shouldn’t read The Sun Also Rises: If you didn’t like F. Scott Fizgerald’s The Great Gatsby, don’t read this one. It’s similar to Gatsby in that it’s about a group of people with annoying habits and problems that they don’t communicate well about. It’s an examination of a generation that people now don’t know much about personally- we only really know them and their struggles through books like this.

 

The Sun Also Rises is available at the library.

Content note: violence (in particular, bullfighting), racism, some suggestive scenes (which are mostly inferred or referenced in conversation), language, substance abuse.

Reading List: Literary Classics

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Literature can be a broad genre, full of well-written tomes of years past and present. We’ve made a reading list of popular and diverse literary classics that are available at the library. For more books like these, search the subject tag “fiction” on our library catalog, or browse shelves PN-PS on the library’s second floor.

*book descriptions are from the library website and/or the publishers.

For classics in eBook form, click here.

 

Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Set on the Caribbean coast of South America, this love story brings together Fermina Daza, her distinguished husband, and a man who has secretly loved her for more than fifty years.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby had once loved beautiful, spoiled Daisy Buchanan, then lost her to a rich boy. Now, mysteriously wealthy, he is ready to risk everything to woo her back.

 

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Psychological description of the Ramsay family at their summer home on the Scottish coast.

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Discovered on the streets of Liverpool, Heathcliff is rescued by Mr. Earnshaw and taken to the remote Yorkshire farmhouse of Wuthering Heights. Earnshaw’s daughter Catherine rapidly forms an attachment to him, but when Catherine’s brother takes over the Heights, Heathcliff is lowered to the position of a barely-tolerated farmhand.

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The lives of two sisters–Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a southern woman married to a man she hates–are revealed in a series of letters exchanged over thirty years.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A young girl growing up in an Alabama town in the 1930s learns of injustice and violence when her father, a lawyer, defends a black man accused of raping a white girl.

 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The story of flamboyant Lady Brett Ashely and the hapless Jake Barnes in an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

 

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Part ghost story, part history lesson, part folk tale, Beloved finds beauty in the unbearable and lets us all see the enduring promise of hope that lies in anyone’s future.

 

Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Determined to overreach his humanity and assert his untrammeled individual will, Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the Tsars, commits an act of murder and theft and sets a story into motion.

 

Featured Author: Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison was born on February 18th, 1931. She grew up in Loraine, Ohio, and went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. Morrison has been a professor, editor, and a writer. Her writing themes include profound thoughts on race, justice, family ties, infidelity, love, jealousy, and personal freedom.

Morrison has also won the distinguished awards of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for her intense novel, Beloved. Further, in 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In fact, Morrison has won so many awards for her accomplishments that this blog post doesn’t quite do her justice- visit her Wikipedia page for a full list of the awards.

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Some of Morrison’s most famous books include:

Each of these books are available in the library- you can learn more about them by clicking on the links above.

 

 

 

Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables

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This month marks the 110th anniversary of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. The beloved classic has sold over 50 million copies worldwide — more than The Odyssey, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Pride and Prejudice — and has been adapted for stage, film, television, and radio over 35 times. Here are some facts you may not know about the world’s favorite spunky red-headed orphan:

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She was an instant hit.

Many works that are now considered classics and must-reads were initially met with mixed to terrible reviews. Even J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, now the third-highest on the all-time best sellers list, was initially called “death to literature itself” by a New York Times reviewer. Montgomery’s work suffered insignificant amounts of public criticism, if any, and was popular enough to be translated into other languages within a year of its release.

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She encouraged resistance against Nazis.

Anne of Green Gables was banned in German- and Soviet-occupied Poland during World War II because the main character embodied individuality, loyalty to family, and resistance to authority. The Polish resistance movement issued unofficial Polish translations of the book to it soldiers to remind them of the values they were fighting for.

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She inspired great writers.

Popular writers have drawn inspiration from Anne ever since the first copy was published. Novelist Margaret Laurence credits Montgomery with starting women’s literature in Canada, and Mark Twain called Anne “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice.” Margaret Atwood, author of recently popular books such as The Handmaid’s Tale, has written essays about Montgomery’s works and cast Megan Follows (Anne in the well-known 1985 movie) as the lead in her play, the “Penelopiad.”

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She is a cultural icon in Japan.

Akage no An (Red Haired Anne) was introduced to Japan during the educational reforms of 1952. The series and its authorized prequel have both been adapted into anime, and two schools in Japan (the Anne Academy in Fukuoma and the School of Green Gables in Okayama) teach their students how to speak and behave as the admired character would. Green Gables Heritage Place estimates that over 8,000 (5%) of its annual visitors are Japanese, and it is partly thanks to the generosity of Japanese fans that the house was able to be restored after a fire in 1997.

Want to check out the Anne of Green Gables series? Find it here in our catalog!