Hemingway gets a lot of shit, but boy when he wrote his first novel, he wrote a perfect one. That’s my recommendation by the way. If you’re going to write a novel, write a perfect one. The first time I read this book I didn’t really understand why Jake and Brett didn’t just get together. As far as a reason, this one is a doozy. Jake of course has been injured in the war, specifically receiving shrapnel while flying a mission. His injury has left him at least impotent, if not amputated. And even though he and Brett seem to very much love each other, they cannot be together. Luckily, Jake will stay friends with her and watch her make several disastrous choices in a row. The most current one involves a writer Jake hates (but also doesn’t) Robert Cohn. Cohn has recently published a novel and is working on a second. He was a boxer at Princeton and Jake seems to think this is about the only element of his personality, at all. Robert has recently spent a week with Brett in San Sebastien, and seems to think this means there’s a future between the two of them. Brett doesn’t of course, and plans to marry Mike, a Scottish war veteran with a drinking problem and bigger anger problem. This crew plus a few others have a plan to go to the bullfighting fiesta in Pamplona in the near future. That’s a week or so away and in the meantime there’s a lot of drinking and fishing and drinking to do. There’s some very uncomfortable moments in the novel like when Jake becomes enraged at a group of gay men who usher Brett into a ballroom party they’re attending (obviously he resents the close comparison he feels with them, however unfair). The most surprising thing that occurs to me this time around is that all the characters are older than I remembered. They’re all in the early to mid thirties, and I had also pictured them in the mid-twenties. When I was 17, this wouldn’t have made a difference at all, but at my age, it matters a lot to see their behavior and recklessness though that lens. These are some severely damaged people working here in this novel. There’s some very familiar and very casual anti-Semitism toward Robert Cohn from, well everybody, and there’s some inexplicable racism tossed around. It’s also a deeply sad and violent novel at times, and like I said, about as messy and near perfect as you can imagine.