Wednesday, October 16, 2013

360 (2013 #44). The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway,
read by William Hurt

I didn't particularly care for this book, a character study of the "Lost Generation," the post-World War I expatriates who congregated in Paris and seemed to spend their time writing or pursuing the arts, traveling, and drinking (a LOT), while living off inheritances or other people's money.

However, after reading The Paris Wife  about a year ago, a biographical novel about Hemingway's first (of four) wives Hadley, and discussing it earlier this year, our book club agreed to read The Sun Also Rises, the book that Hadley received all the royalties from in a pre-divorce settlement.

British socialite Lady Duff Twysden and her two lovers, writer Harold Loeb and Pat Guthrie; Hemingway's boyhood friend Bill Smith; and writer Donald Ogden Stewart were among the group that accompanied Hemingway and his wife Hadley on their third trip to Pamplona, Spain, in June 1925.  They (and their actions) inspired the characters of Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, Mike Campbell, and Bill Gorton (a combination of Smith and Stewart) respectively.  Hemingway of course, is the narrator and main character, Jake), while Hadley does not appear in the book at all (other than possibly in the guise of Jake's impotence that prevents him from having an affair with Brett/Duff).  The young matador Cayetano Ordóñez was the inspiration for matador Pedro Romero in the book.

Brett is a woman who wants sex without love, while Jake can only give her love without sex.   That's more or less the gist of the story.  Brett is living with the alcoholic Mike, and has an affair with the Jewish Robert.  Bill seems to be a pretty normal guy; he and Jake go on a fishing trip on the way to Pamplona.  The other three join them there, and there's a lot of tension, because both Jake and Robert are in love with Brett, but Robert is an annoying third wheel to Mike.  Meanwhile Brett seduces Romero.  None of these characters are especially likeable.

It was interesting to see how much Brett was like Duff in The Paris Wife.  Hemingway biographer  Michael Reynolds said, "Duff Twysden used men like library books, checked them out, browsed through them and returned them late without paying the fine," (Hemingway: The Paris Years, 1989, page 289), and that's a pretty apt description of Brett.

The title of the book is tied into the twin epigraphs at the beginning, one a quote from Gertrude Stein, part of Hemingway's Paris group, that "You are all a lost generation," and the other from Ecclesiastes 1:4-7, which begins: "One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises..."

Well-known movie actor William Hurt read this audiobook.  I thought he was pretty effective, especially with the voice of Mike Campbell, who he gave a Scottish burr (although a very drunken one).  He was very good at making all the characters sound drunk when they were drunk.

I'd definitely recommend this book as a pair with The Paris Wife.  I'm also interested in reading Hemingway's take on his Paris years, A Moveable Feast, to see how they compare.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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