When In Our Time was published in 1925, it was praised by Ford Madox Ford, John Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald for its simple and precise use of language to convey a wide range of complex emotions, and it earned Hemingway a place beside Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein among the most promising American writers of that period. In Our Time contains several early Hemingway classics, including the famous Nick Adams stories "Indian Camp," "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," "The Three Day Blow," and "The Battler," and introduces readers to the hallmarks of the Hemingway style: a lean, tough prose--enlivened by an ear for the colloquial and an eye for the realistic that suggests, through the simplest of statements, a sense of moral value and a clarity of heart. Now recognized as one of the most original short story collections in twentieth-century literature, In Our Time provides a key to Hemingway's later works.
The book consists of many short stories, separated by short vignettes. Many of the short stories contain the character Nick Adams, initially a young boy learning about death in the company of his father who is a doctor. Then, he begins growing up. He has relationships with young women and great friends. These stories are divided by very short vignettes portraying the violence and emotions suffered in World War I. Very notable is Chapter VII,
...he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh jesus christ get me out of here. Dear jesus please get me out. Christ please please please christ. If you'll only keep me from getting killed I'll do anything you say...Please please dear jesus...The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.
The Nick Adams stories come to a close at the end of the book with the two part Big Two-Hearted River, which shows an older, more mature Nick Adams, returned from the war and returning to the calming lifestyle of his youth by camping and fly-fishing in an amazingly described river and meadow.
In Our Time set the stage for Ernest Hemingway to become one of the most influential writers (some would argue he was the most influential) of the twentieth century. His short, terse, masculine prose would set the literary world on fire and paved the way for Hemingway's other masterpieces, including The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. In Our Time is an excellent introductory work to the writing of Hemingway and is a classic sure to be enjoyed by many.
The book's structure in itself has a modern feel to it - the stories alternate with very short bursts of what would probably now be called micro-fiction. There are tales here covering subject matter that would become especially familiar to followers of his writing: of soldiers returning home from battle; vagrants on the road; young Americans at leisure in Europe; assorted 'butch' pursuits that you'd wear a cosy plaid shirt for: hunting, fishing, skiing, boozing, etc. I enjoyed most of the stories, but the stand-outs for me were: "The Battler"(I wanted more of those characters!), "The Three-Day Blow", "Soldier's Home", and "Big Two-Hearted River" (both parts).
Hemingway introduces his character Nick Adams in many of these stories. From boyhood to manhood we see the character grow, passing through the horrors of service in the First World War, returning back home to small town America. The writing is really very good. Hemingway's skill as a nature writer alone is remarkable - his ability to describe with such clarity - yet without verbosity - and so beautifully, precisely what the reader needs to 'see' in their mind's eye, has very few equals. Very hard to believe that this collection is not far off being a hundred years old! Well worth reading.
The stories themselves are all very brief—they range in length from just a single page to eight or ten pages—but they are, for the most part, all remarkably powerful. My favorites involved the exploits of Nick Adams, Hemingway’s alter ego, before, during and after the war. The strongest pieces were “Indian Camp,” “The End of Something,” “The Three-Day Blow,” “My Old Man,” and “Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II”. I know that Hemingway’s reputation has suffered in recent years as some of the more sordid details of his personal life have emerged, but there is no denying that he was an incredibly talented writer with a deep understanding of human nature. Although better known for his longer works, these short stories stand as great examples of a world-class author finding his voice. Indeed, this is the book that put Hemingway on the literary map and it was an absolute pleasure to read.
I think people have fun reading Hemingway and adding their own conclusions about that darkness just under the surface. For instance, in "On the Quai At Smyrna" was it the most humane thing for the Greeks to break the forelegs of all the animals they couldn't take with them and let them drown in shallow water? Was it a pleasant business? It was a way of coping with experience.
In "Indian Camp" I found two things of interest: (1. Nick's father, the doctor, said he doesn't hear screams because the aren't important. This is not a doctor I'm not sure I would like to be under the care of. Does empathy play a part in being a good physician? On the other hand, I rather have a cold but sure hand rather than an empathetic one. Both would be nice. Something is lacking in the former. (2. Why did the Indian father kill himself when it was that the doctor was there to deliver his baby? Perhaps his foot-wound was something he felt would not heal properly. Can we be sure it was suicide? How many people kill themselves by cutting their own throats?
"The Doctor And The Doctor's Wife" reveals that the doctor isn't keen on fighting, is a thief in denial, and that his wife is a Christian Scientist. The latter reveals the likely catalyst of much of Nick's problems.
"The End of Something" was the end of Nick's childhood and the beginning of the years of confusion.
"The Three Day Blow" shows us that Nick turns to alcohol for answers.
"The Battler" is Nick's initiation into manhood.
"Cross Country Snow" could be said to be a tale of freedom verses entrapment, which results in resignation.
"My Old Man" is another man not unlike the doctor—a good man, but dishonest—a paradoxical disappointment.
"Big Two Hearted River" was Nick, at home, in his own environment. It was, I believe, an attempt to disassociate, withdraw, and become self-sufficient. The swamps will be the undoing of Nick. It will be his greatest time of learning.
Different stories of war times, helping the woman birth the children with the Indians,
Stories of bull fights, fishing, skiing in the snow, jockeys and horse racing,
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
The book also contains a number of "Nick Adams" stories, concerning a young man growing up in Michigan, that feel as fresh today as they must have when he wrote them.
I think the story that stuck with me the most was "The Three-Day Blow," and if you've ever gotten drunk with your best friend, I suspect it might stick with you as well.
Another cool thing about this book?
Some of the stories are as short as this review.