For book club this month, One silent winter at La Porte Rouge selected this Hemingway classic.
Originally published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises was Ernest Hemingway’s first big hit. Less than ten years after the end of World War I, the novel helped define his generation: disillusioned young people whose lives were profoundly affected by the war. Hemingway bore the physical and emotional scars of the war for the rest of his life, just like the troubled characters he created in The Sun Also Rises, and the novel expresses the uncertainty and aimlessness of this "Lost Generation"
Although Jake and Brett are actually in love, they aren’t together, presumably because a mysterious war wound has rendered Jake impotent. Cohn falls in love with Brett (as everyone does) and, despite the fact that she’s not terribly impressed with him, she secretly goes on a trip with him to the Spanish resort town of San Sebastian. Cohn is infatuated with Brett – he’s completely smitten. Brett is engaged to a wealthy, charming, and utterly inept drunkard named Mike. Jake’s friend Bill returns to Paris from a trip and a plan is born: everyone agrees to go to Spain for some fishing and the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
On their brief fishing trip, Bill and Jake have a splendid time They return to civilization and meet up with Brett, Mike, and Cohn in Pamplona for a weeklong orgy of bullfights, alcohol, and high drama. Jake has a true passion (aficion) for bullfighting, but everyone else is simply there to have a good time. Brett begins a rather scandalous affair with a passionate and talented young bull-fighter, Pedro Romero. Jake feels terrible for many reasons – among them is the fear that he has corrupted Romero by introducing him to Brett. Cohn’s thwarted infatuation with Brett leads to arguments with everyone and, finally, he beats Romero to a bloody pulp. As the fiesta winds down, everyone leaves Pamplona in various states of anxiety, depression and frustration.
Jake heads to San Sebastian, where he intends to be alone for a while, but desperate telegrams from Brett arrive immediately. He goes to her in Madrid, where she is alone, having sent Romero away. For the first time, we see Brett afraid, and guilty. The future looks just as bleak – Jake and Brett agree again that, even though they love each other, they can’t be together.
There are several major themes in this book--Dissatisfaction (fun but not contentment)--Identity (none of the characters are what they appear to be)--Masculinity (all the men are insecure so there is constant tension among them)--Drinking (all the characters are problem drinkers)--Post WW1 generation (disillusioned young people)
It was good to revisit an Ernest Hemingway novel. His ability to make the common place memorable, to build depth of character through simple events, and develop themes that are still relevant today makes for a good read.