The first time I attempted to read a book by Hemingway, I was twelve, and it was The Old Man and the Sea. Of course, it didn’t sit well with me. But fast forward to ten years later, and I’ve finally finished my first Hemingway!
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises is told through the eyes of Jacob Barnes, a war veteran who didn’t escape completely unscathed from the battlefield. Jake and his friends are a bunch of expatriates who live in Europe now, and want to enjoy their life after viewing the horrors of war. And the best way to do this, they decide, is to travel to Pamplona in Spain, to bear witness to the raucous fiesta of San Fermin. The fiesta brings about relationships that are broken or solidified, and the painful realization that the love of Jake’s life will never love him back. At the risk of revealing a bit too much, the book isn’t a totally ‘feel-good’ read about a friend road trip.
What I liked that Hemingway did differently to his peers writing in the same era was that he didn’t go out of his way to use bombastic language and make things decorated. In a way though, I felt like his writing suffered just a tad, by being a tad too simplistic at times. He also went into in depth descriptions of activities happening throughout the day that felt like they had no significance to the actual plot – he often ends up describing exactly what it is they ate and drank and what they talked about at the dinner table, but this rarely holds any significance to the plot itself unless there’s some form of dialogue.
While I appreciate the new writing style, and enjoy Hemingway for the brilliant author he is, the constant, diary-like droning of Jake’s activities managed to bore me just a tad.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this novel, especially considering that I’ve grown up in a household where the feast of San Fermin is a highly awaited one – my parents watch the televised running of the bulls every morning, every day of the seven-day fiesta. The book does justice to the fiesta, and also gives Jake a very likable quality – while he knows that Brett will never love him, he does nothing to stop her from being with those she wants to love. And that makes all the difference in the kind of character he is.
Final rating: 4/5. Please read this book.
Quotes I Liked: