I first read a Hemingway book as a teenager, and I distinctly remember having to look up “cognac” because I had never heard of it before. I finished the book (It was either “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or
“A Farewell to Arms”) but wasn’t especially moved or impacted by it. Maybe I was too young because I thoroughly appreciated “The Sun Also Rises.”
“Appreciate” is a specific word–and I use it because I am not exactly sure that I enjoyed it. I found it to be painfully raw. It all felt a little too real–like a heightened version of a weekend trip with friends that has gone very poorly, and in fact it was very real. Check out this article if the “realness” of the story interests you.
Hemingway’s writing felt refreshingly straightforward, and I was impressed by all that he was able to convey without the flowery extras. Sometimes a book leaves you yearning for more, but this book left me grateful not to share in the hangovers or emotional strife. I am still trying to decide if Hemingway’s foray into writing from literal experience feels brave or cheap, and I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter what I think.