“When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me. She looked toward the door, saw there was no one, then she sat on the side of the bed and leaned over and kissed me. I pulled her down and kissed her and felt her heart beating.”
Lieutenant Frederic Henry is an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I. Catherine Barkley is a nurse who meets and flirts with Frederic before he is wounded on the war front. He recovers in a hospital in Milan with Catherine as his nurse and the two begin a love affair. Before Frederic is sent back into duty Catherine finds out she is pregnant. I’m not going to say more because I don’t want to give too much away.
I’ve read that this is one of the best war novels ever written and that it is one of the best love stories ever penned. I don’t agree with either of these, although I do think it does a great job of bringing the war to life and it is a grand love story. Some of the problem may be that the character of Catherine felt very flat to me. She felt like she was written by a man and, well, not all that sympathetic. Surprisingly, I did enjoy the aspects of the war Hemingway chose to share.
This is an American classic, but because it is a war story I avoided it. And somehow I earned my degree in English Education without ever having read a Hemingway novel. I decided to listen to it and was pleased with the reader, John Slattery. He did an excellent job. Some of you may know him from his current job on the tv show Mad Men.