Monday, January 6, 2014

REVIEW: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

This is my review of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. This book was the January pick for one of my book clubs. Unfortunately, the title doesn't fit either the What's in a Name or Color Coded reading challenges. 

A Moveable Feast is a memoir of the years Hemingway spent in Paris in the 1920s. He wrote it in the 1950s after recovering notebooks he'd filled during the Paris years. In some ways, the book reads as a tabloid magazine with what feels, at times, like heavy name-dropping. Hemingway did spend a lot of his time with well-known writers of the day, such as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. I got the sense he plucked the most famous people from his notes to reminisce on. While Hemingway brought the book to final draft form during his life, his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway, did the final edits on the book that was published posthumously in 1964. There is a restored edition that is supposed to be more in keeping with what Ernest Hemingway had intended that includes some of his sketches, a foreward by his son, Patrick, and an introduction by his grandson, Sean. I did not read the restored version but the original 1964 edition. I almost would be interested in reading the restored version too to see what differences there are. It is possible that Ernest Hemingway did not feel the need to name-drop as much as his widow? Fortunately, I know some of the women in my book club have read the restored version so I will just settle with the book club discussion on the differences.

My number one comment on this book is that it just didn't stay with me from reading to reading. It may be because it was a memoir and not a novel. I don't read a lot of memoirs so I don't have prior experience to go on. With novels, however, I find myself thinking about the characters and the story a lot throughout the day, even when I'm far from reading time. It may also be that Hemingway's writing style doesn't resonate with me. He was known for a simple, direct and unadorned style. I really like vivid descriptions that paint a full color tapestry scene in my imagination.

One personal struggle I had with reading it is that I really have no clue on how to pronounce French words. I have no background in the French language at all except for singing Ah! Je Veux Vivre in college. And in that case, I only learned how to pronounce the French in that song. An audio version would have helped with the pronunciation but then I wouldn't have seen the word spelled out. I should probably start looking them up online as I'm reading. I have friends who read with little tape flags to mark words they want to look up. I might need to take up that habit... at least with books with French in them. 

I read The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms ages ago (assigned high school reading). I certainly don't remember them being favorites. Maybe I will reread one of his novels at some point. Or try another one. This was a quick read, but if it hadn't been a book club selection, I probably would have put it down a few chapters in and moved on to something else. 

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