Haneen Reads

Just some book reviews

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls


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Date Read May 15, 2020


ISBN 9780099908609

Pages 490

Ah Ernest, I’ve given you another chance and I must say, I remain baffled by your popularity. I have previously read The Old Man and the Sea and I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, hearing nothing but praise about Hemingway. But this novel was just OK. The novel follows Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit during the Spanish civil war. Robert is given the task of blowing up a strategic bridge to counteract Franco’s forces. It is a novel about war, courage, love and defeat.

The novel started just fine, the premise was interesting, the events are somewhat intriguing, but the characters leave much to be desired. Where does one start with the characters in this novel? I guess I should start (and end) with Maria, Robert’s “love” interest. They supposedly fell head-over-heels in love in a matter of days! There’s no other way to say it, Maria is just so badly written. Here’s a character who’s been sexually assaulted by multiple men at a young age, who somehow falls in love with a foreign man she knows nothing about in a few days time. Robert says he’s in love with her, but every time he thinks of her, he vividly recalls her breasts! He promises Maria that when this war is over, they will marry and live happily ever after, and she begins to ask him so many questions about how she could be the perfect wife/sex slave for him. It’s just bad.

Of course, there are some redeeming qualities to this novel. Hemingway’s language and writing style is wonderful, the plot is interesting and the ideas discussed are intriguing. Ideas about war, brutality, blind loyalty, disappointments and the death of ideals are all ideas worth exploring in this novel.

I can’t say I recommend reading this novel, I’m sure you can find better works surrounding the Spanish civil war. However, if, like myself, you’re a student of classics and modern classics, then perhaps reading Hemingway and this novel is worth it.

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