A farewell to arms

by Ernest Hemingway

Hardcover, 1929




New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1929. Orange cloth. No dust jacket.


An unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his love for an English nurse.

Media reviews

In its sustained, inexorable movement, its throbbing preoccupation with flesh and blood and nerves rather than the fanciful fabrics of intellect, it fulfills the prophecies that his most excited admirers have made about Ernest Hemingway... in its depiction of War, the novel bears comparison with its best predecessors. But it is in the hero's perhaps unethical quitting of the battle line to be with the woman whom he has gotten with child that it achieves its greatest significance.
1 more
It is a moving and beautiful book.

User reviews

LibraryThing member benuathanasia
Every now and then, I come across a book that makes me question the term "classic." The five sections of the book, in my opinion, were as follows; tedious, horrible, interesting, mildly interesting, blase, with an ending that was ridiculously predictable. The faux-mance between Henry and Cat was pitiful. Catherine was quite possibly the single-most detestable female character I have ever come across (aside from the infamous Bella of Twilight fame). It's as though her only purpose in life is to please Henry; she has no life outside of him (as they both state ad nauseum). She is the poster-child for relationship therapy.
As for the war aspects of the novel, I enjoyed learning about the "battalion police." Other than that, the writing was so choppy it was hard to follow the action (where it existed).
I cannot classify this as a romance novel due to the fact that the featured romance was an unhealthy one.
Nor can I classify it as a war novel because most of Henry's time "at the front" consisted of him drinking and chatting at the mess about nothing worth mentioning.
The only subject category I can think of that this might fall into is an alcoholism novel. Henry drinks enough to satisfy half a fraternity. I now know the names of more than enough wines and brandy to last me the rest of my life.
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LibraryThing member Pretear
I always feel strange writing reviews for classics because, really, what the hell do I know? My high school was big on literary diversity so I never got to read the 'dead white guys'. I'm embarrassed to say that this is the first time I've read Hemingway. I can definitely see why he is such an important, influential author. His style is truly unique. His ability to write short, sharp, concise, yet powerful sentences is truly impressive. The minimalism seemed more pronounced in the beginning of A Farewell to Arms - it's possible that the style was so foreign to me that it was overwhelming at first, but it became less pronounced as I became more accustomed to it.

Surprisingly, there was a lot of humor in the book although some of it may have been unintentional. My general impression is that this book centers suffering as the normal state of life. Love, drink, food, games, are distractions but one will always go back to suffering.

As far as gender roles, I know Hemingway catches a lot of flack for being a dirty sexist, but I didn't see anything extremely offensive in this book. The main male character seemed like an exaggeration of 'maleness', that is, stereotypically male.( I feel like Hemingway writes male characters this way, his so-called 'Code Hero', because he himself is not stereotypically manly. This may be a baseless assumption but perhaps his characters were a type of wish fulfillment rather than an expression of himself.) The main female character didn't strike me as stereotypically female. The only feminist criticism that occurs to me is that the main female character seemed very concerned with pleasing the main male character even to her own detriment. But at the same time she seemed aware, more so than the male character, that their love was a fleeting game. She was happy to play house as a distraction (maybe that's the reason that she always put off getting married even though he suggested it early and often?) She did seem really two dimensional, but so did most of the characters, even the main male character.
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LibraryThing member deslni01
"A Farewell to Arms" is a classic piece of literature from one of the most well known authors, Ernest Hemingway. Set in Italy during World War I, Frederic Henry - an American volunteer ambulance driver for the Italian army - falls in love with nurse Catherine Barkley and their love affair grows.

Hemingway is famed for his short, terse prose that somehow evokes emotions through declarative sentence after declarative sentence and "Farewell" is one of the most shining examples of his style. Initially the dialogue may leave some readers wanting, as each line of dialogue is only a sentence or two at the most. The character of Catherine Barkley is interesting in that she seems to have no feelings or goal in life other than to make Frederic Henry happy - and she will do anything to make him happy.

Those are really the only qualms against the story, as it is an excellent, emotional story of love and war that will captivate and grip most readers and leave them breathless at the end.
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LibraryThing member queencersei
A Farewell to Arms is the story of an American, Lieutenant Frederick Henry, who is wounded in WWI in Italy and sent to an Italian hospital to recover. Henry and his Scottish nurse, Catherine Barkley, meet and begin a romance. While Catherine is genuinely enamored of Henry, it is less clear how strongly he returns her affections. However, as a result of their romance, Catherine becomes pregnant.

The novel captures the endless pressure and anxiety that come in a war, when you are not actually in battle. The constant wondering of when the war will end, which side will prevail, what strategies are being planned ring true. The gossiping amongst friends and constant drinking of the characters is also believable. Life takes on urgency in such situations and it is easy to believe that people would behave in ways they ordinarily would not. Such as Catherine, beginning a love affair with a soldier whom she must know will be passing out of her life.
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LibraryThing member catherinestead
Depressing. Bleak, unemotional and unengaging. I found Hemingway's prose style annoying and his dialogue worse, and I didn't like his characters. On the other hand, I thought that the plot was well-constructed - I'd have been very surprised if it hadn't been - and that the the book did a good job of conveying the bleakness and uncertainty of war. I made it to the end, but it was a struggle at times.

I'm aware, though, that I'm in a minority and many people love the very things that made me dislike the book. If you like terse prose and depressing war stories, you'll love this book.
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LibraryThing member LARA335
I vaguely remember reading this novel as a teenager for a course I abandoned. Half a lifetime away, I can sympathise with my young self.

This time round I expected to love this: a Classic, a love story, taking place in WW1, written by a participant.

I actually found it dire. I presume the 'classic' status was because of the contemporary subject matter and sparse writing. But read almost a century later, the sentence structure was so monotonous, I began to try and spot the rare sentence that didn't contain an 'and' just to liven up the reading experience.

At first when a character repeated himself I thought it showed realism and a personality trait. But every character did it, every time they spoke. Crumps Hemingway's got me doing it now.

In other writers, describing events reveals character and emotions, but I simply felt here that description was all because there was no inner thought or feeling.

Won't be picking up another Hemingway anytime soon.
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LibraryThing member santhony
This is my second shot at Hemingway, having recently read The Sun Also Rises. Interestingly enough, I found the two reading experiences almost identical. As was the case with "Sun", I was initially underwhelmed, but around midway through the book, felt myself drawn into the story and by the end, was reluctant to put the book down.

Hemingway certainly has his own signature style. Clipped, terse, single sentence dialogue that at times borders on the absurd. Perhaps it is the act of becoming comfortable and familiar with the style that results in his works starting slow and building to a strong finish, because at its root, this is simply a magnificent story, built upon a singular historical event. It was Hemingway's own experience as a stretcher bearer on the Austro-Italian front that provided the motivation and basis for the story.

I've seen some label this an anti-war novel, but I simply don't see it. It is anti-war to the extent that it doesn't glorify the act of war, but it is not political. The front line soldiers certainly are not pro-war, but honestly, except in the case of the odd megalomaniacs and psychopaths, given the choice most would opt for peace. At its root, this is a love story set amid extremely difficult and trying circumstances. Finally, as with much of Hemingway, don't expect a happy ending.
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LibraryThing member KimMR
The way I listened to the audiobook version of this novel narrated by John Slattery didn’t do it justice. Being on holidays, away from home and my usual commuting and exercising habits, I listened in short grabs, either just before going to sleep or when I woke up in the early hours of the morning and wanted to get back to sleep again. I had to re-listen to bits I'd missed by dozing off, which does not make for a smooth and cohesive literary experience. In addition, it’s a reasonably short book, but it’s taken me a month or so to finish, which is not good when I have such a poor memory for plot details.

That said, I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would. I've not read a huge amount of Hemingway, although I've read enough to know that he's not my favourite writer. However, I like the deceptive simplicity of Hemingway's prose - a simplicity extraordinarily difficult to achieve. I also like the way in which Hemingway used his personal experience of being a volunteer ambulance driver at the Italian front during World War I to ground the plot. And I appreciate the complete absence bull fighting in this novel, a passion of Hemingway's to which I cannot relate.

Slattery’s narration is excellent. Thankfully, he’s not one of those male narrators who heads into the falsetto range when voicing a female character. Overall, this has been an unusual audiobook experience for me, but a worthwhile one nevertheless.
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LibraryThing member MColv9890
We read this for junior year AP American Literature. I hated, loved, and learned to read this novel for what it is. The kids in my class (myself included) hated the terms of endearment. This one has his most famous discussion about the ants burning on the log.

Ernest Hemingway's answer to "why did the chicken cross the road?"
-to die alone in the rain
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I admit I heartily hated this book. I have admired and enjoyed short stories by Hemingway: "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "Hills Like White Elephants," "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." Perhaps it's that his style is not all that amenable to a long form, although I admit this is the only novel by him I've read. The flyleaf of the hardcover edition of A Farewell to Arms that I read claimed that Hemingway's "short declarative sentences and terse prose" revolutionized American literature. I wish his prose here was terse, which to me would imply economical and precise. To me his prose in this novel comes across more as mannered, monotonous and meandering. Here's one, not untypical, sentence from early on:

The mountain that was beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forest grew was captured and there were victories beyond the plain on the plateau to the south and we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia that had a fountain and many thick shady trees in a walled garden and a wisteria vine purple on the side of the house.

Try saying that three times quickly without pause!

I found this one of the most tedious classic novels I have ever forced myself through. I've also heard that this is an amazing love story. Well, I have to tell you, I've read a lot of literary heart throbs, even flawed anti-heroes, who if they walked off the page, reader, I'd marry him! In the case of Lieutenant Frederick Henry, goodness, all I could think is what does Catherine see in him, and boy he sure drinks like a fish. He's supposedly a "man's man" sort of guy and he left me absolutely cold, and he's strangely opaque for a protagonist that also carries the first person narration. The novel almost feels third person, I get so little sense of a voice or personality. Nor does his love, Nurse Catherine Barkley, ever come across as a real person to me. Even Bella of Twilight fame came across to me as less self-effacing. ("There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.") The dialogue between the two lovers was actually painful to read.

So, unbearable prose style, often cheesy or wooden dialogue, flat characters? Was there anything about this novel I liked? Well, like Henry, Hemingway himself served in World War I in Italy as a ambulance driver. Every once in a while, I'd catch him writing something horrifying and real. Whether it's his casual mention of thousands dying of cholera, or passages like this one:

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

I wish there was more of that. But lines like those were buried in such tedium it was hard to enjoy them when they came by.
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LibraryThing member madepercy
I must admit that while I have been mesmerised by anything Hemingway for some time now, it was a bit of an effort to get through the first half of this book. While my attitude towards the book changed each time I got back into it, I think the source of the problem for me was the emptiness that can only be expressed by those who have first-hand experience of large-scale conventional war. Nonetheless, and despite the historical background to the story, I found it to be written clearly in the present tense. Yet I couldn’t help but sense the emptiness I had once felt when I was about seven years old. I remember visiting, for no particular reason, an old war widow, who gave me two shillings (five cent pieces - one for me and the other for my sister) but then she cried and pointed to the faded photographs of her husband and her brothers who were all killed in the Second World War. The empty feeling of the interior of her dark house with its art deco furniture and the smell of stale tobacco smoke accompanied me throughout “A Farewell to Arms” and I think I avoided it until I decided that I would finish it off in one go. As the climax emerged suddenly towards the end of the book, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. By this stage of the plot the war was almost an afterthought for the main characters and bits of classic Hemingway emerge (beards, boxing, and booze). But by the end, I needed some quiet time to emotionally recover. I’ve never cried from reading a book before. I still don’t like this book. Nevertheless, it is truly magnificent and how somebody in their mid-twenties could comprehend so much beggars belief. It can only be genius.… (more)
LibraryThing member aethercowboy
One of Hemingway's most noted stories is the foundation for an exciting internet meme known as "six word stories." A complete collection of books was published, called "Six Word Memoirs," in the vein of this challenge met by Hemingway. Likewise are Six Word Sci-Fi stories to be found on the internet.

This story went as such: "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn."

For those of you familiar with Hemingway's life, you may see this as being quite autobiographical. Likewise, you may also find A Farewell to Arms to be equally autobiographical.

Set during World War I (called The Great War), American Frederic Henry is caught up in the war on the Italian Front. He drives an ambulance, delivering wounded solders to the proper medical facilities. In his duty, he meets an English nurse named Catherine Barkley. The two fall in love.

The story chronicles their relationship, and how the raging war outside tries to tear them apart (though without the war, they would have never met). As things start to fall apart, the lovers in the war-torn world try to find a safe place. A neutral place.

Not all is happy, but at the same time, not all is sad. The novel, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouth of the reader, is well worth the time and devotion spend traveling through its passages alongside Frederic and Catherine.

Recommended for any fan of Hemingway, but too for readers interested in fiction focusing on World War I.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Hemingway's theme is pretty clear - "The world breaks every one". Despite Frederic's good luck - finding love, escaping death, getting away from the war - in the end the world still breaks him. As a love story, the novel is very one-sided. Catherine really only exists as seen through Frederic's eyes - and she seems a bit crazy to use her word. There's a curious lack of honor in this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Helenliz
I found this quite frustrating to read.At times the way he writes conversations are incredibly confusing, just lines and lines of speech, with no indicators as to who is saying what. It's OK for a few lines, but after a page and a half, it's very easy to get lost as to who is saying what. Especially when the conversation is a bit banal and largely pointless.
There is an odd use of language as well. At times it feels a bit stilted, at others the word choice is strange. Describing something 3 times in the same sentence as "nice" isn't what I expected. At times the choice of language was simple, at others repetitive, it didn't seem to be elegant or well considered.
The tale told is both simple and complicated. The central character is an American of (I think) Italian extraction who is serving in the Italian ambulance service on the Italian front. He's there because he's volunteered, not because he's been conscripted. He gets injured, treated and returned to the front shortly before the big breakthrough and collapse of the Italians at Carporetto. He gets swept up in the retreat and the way that the army degenerates is vividly told. However, it also sees the end of his involvement with the war.
However this does not end neatly, his own life disintegrates, with the nurse he had met and fallen in love with escaping over the Swiss boarder with him, before failing to survive childbirth.
At times I quite enjoyed this, but I failed to warm to Catherine, she was just so insipid as to be nothing that the narrator did not want her to be. She kept going on about being a good wife to him, if she wanted to do something he didn't she immediately changed her mind. I found her impossible to feel for or warm to.
There's much that could have been good in here, but it didn't hang together and I found too much to not enjoy.
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
I found the dialogue between Henry and Catherine to be silly and inane. Despite depicting the horror of war, this book did nothing to make you root for the couple.
LibraryThing member siubhank
Hemingway was not known for either unbridled optimism or happy endings, and A Farewell to Arms, like his other novels offers neither. What it does provide is an unblinking portrayal of men and women behaving with grace under pressure, both physical and psychological, and somehow finding the courage to go on in the face of certain loss.

This wonderful story, with much of the material loosely based on his own personal experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I, by a young early Hemingway, is perhaps, one of the finest anti-war novels ever written. The story captures, in great detail, the conflict in all of its horror and barbarism.
In it we are introduced to a young and idealistic man, Frederick Henry, who, through love, experience and existential circumstance, comes to see the folly, waste, and irony of war, and attempts to make his own peace outside the confines of traditional conformity. For all of his obvious excesses, Hemingway was an artist compelled to delve deliberately into painful truths, and he attempted to do so with a style of writing that cut away all of the frills and artifice, so that at its heart this novel is meant as a exploration into what it means to confront the world of convention and deliberately decide to choose for what one feels in his heart as opposed to what one is expected to do. Of course, in so doing, the young ambulance driver becomes a full-grown adult, facing his trials with grace and courage. Still, what we are left with is a modern tragedy, one in which the characters must somehow attempt to resolve the irresolvable.
The tragic irony of this novel is what makes it so memorable. Henry, as a wounded man who withdraws from the battle, as well as the whims of the Italian Army. However, he does so only to find that life is full of tragedy whether you're in a war or not.
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LibraryThing member RBeffa
There is just something instantly recognizeable about reading a Hemingway story. A paragraph or two on the first page and you know what you have. I regret not visitng with one of my longtime favorite authors more often this past decade. I wanted to re-read this one for the WWI centennial where it seemed to be an appropriate time. I had slightly forgotten Hemingway's occasional affection for the very long run-on sentence that almost goes on forever. More often they run on just a little, which is what I remember. For some reason it never bothered me much with Hemingway unlike others. Maybe it is just because his writing is so direct that I don't get lost along the way. Then of course there are the very short ones to help create what is distinctly Hemingway.

In any event I love this novel. I admire Hemingway's skill at sliding things into sentences, where he talks about one thing but lets you see another or get a glimpse of things to come. It is love in the time of war. It is a heartbreaker for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the end. There are a ridiculous number of passages in this book that I love to read and re-read. One can immerse oneself into this story. It is a memoir, a fictionalized journalistic type of account of Hemingway in Italy in WWI. I don't think it can be viewed any other way. The Italian war was not the same trench warfare of Belgium and France that comes to mind when one thinks of the Great War. The shelling was very destructive and deadly in the mountains. The story begins early during the war and is set in the mountains where the Italian army fought the Austrians. Our narrator, Mr Henry is an American, an ambulance worker. He meets a Scottish woman, Catherine Barkley. Catherine is a little crazy, but she loves Frederic Henry and he loves her even more. You can cry if you want to. I can see how some readers may not like reading this. I am not one of them. I think Hemingway is my Faulkner - he's not for everyone but for me he works.
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LibraryThing member DameMuriel
I do not like Hemingway. Do you understand? DO NOT like him. Can't even get through his books...except this one. Which is amazing. I had to read this for a college lit course a few years ago and no one else in the class liked it except me. Everyone thought we should've been reading The Sun Also Rises. One guy in the class even said, "I think we should've read The Sun Also Rises...it would've been more appropriate..." Really??? We're in the middle of a war and you think a book about war isn't as appropriate as a book about bull-fighting??? I would recommend this book to people who dislike Hemingway, as I did (and still do). There really are some brilliant moments.… (more)
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
I read this in June 1949. On June 7 I said: "Am half way through 'A Farewell to Arms.' It is just a story of a guy's amorous and boring life on the Italian front in World War One. Not very good." On June 8 I said: "Finished 'Farewell to Arms'--well-written, dull, and non-inspiring. Just tells of a couple who sleep together whenever they can, and how they go to Switzerland and she has baby and dies. Twas easy to read, though."… (more)
LibraryThing member tronella
I have to say that I wasn't overly fond of this one; while the descriptions of places and military aspects were nice, the whole romance part just didn't sit right with me, largely due to the woman being some kind of android with no desire other than to look pretty and make the man happy. Creeped me out somewhat.
LibraryThing member jd234512
I spent most of this book enjoying the story, but feeling like some of the dialogue was fairly weak and not very realistic. After just finishing, however, I am left reeling after that ending. What a blast to the senses that changes my opinion of the whole book from a level slightly above mediocrity to something truly great.
LibraryThing member jeffkeen
The first book I ever felt. Read it in High School. Instantly fell in love with the gritty painful saga.
LibraryThing member rybeewoods
Boring. I've heard that Hemingway is the balls, but I just found that I wanted to cut mine off while reading this book. I finished it though and for that I can be proud.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
It's funny how I sometimes read books for the silliest of reasons. In this case, I took this beautiful orange book with me to the Algarve in Portugal simply because of a throwaway reference in Raimi's second "Evil Dead" movie.

The story is terrific - exiting and moving and terrifying when it needs to be. It is one of Hemingway's most popular tales, of the ambulanceman injured in the war, who falls in love with a nurse and tries to escape with her into Switzerland. The ending rates amongst the most tragic ever written.… (more)
LibraryThing member xmaystarx
I read this for the first time this year and wondered why I never read it in high school or college. Underneath it all this was a love story set in wartime but it doesn't read like one and it certainly isn't a girly book. There are very memorable scenes that are still vibrant in my mind. Although, the nurse and second half of the love story really got on my nerves more than once. I'm not sure if she resembled women of the time but its hard for me to believe that she was. What a pill and pretty fake seeming. But don't let one annoying character prevent you from reading this classic, it does have its redeeming qualities and is a piece of master story telling.… (more)



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