I believe the Jay county Public Library book discussion group may have had one of its best discussions ever! Four of us had read this Hemingway book before and two of us when we were teens. This group enjoys picking up a classic every so often and even though as a group this wasn't our favorite we were all actually quite happy to have read it or reread it.
Let me begin by saying that my morning walking partner Susie and I both read this as teens and we both loved it then. So we spent some mornings reminiscing and analyzing why this time around we didn't “love” it. To make a long discussion short, I would say that when we were teens and being naive we found the love story romantic and believable and perhaps the shocking violence was exciting. Also both of us no doubt had been exposed to Hemingway in our English class anthologies and could feel grown up reading a classic which we could understand and didn't take too long.
The whole book takes place over a four day period in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Robert Jordan, an American professor has joined the International Brigades in order to aide the republican guerrillas fight the nationalists. He has been sent to lead a band to dynamite a significant bridge outside of Segovia. With the guerrillas is a beautiful young woman whom they rescued from a derailed train. The band is loosely held together by Pablo and his wife Pilar.
Over the three days and nights there is unrest among the guerrilla band members and discord with a neighboring band. Theft and murder ensue, and yet there is time for Jordan to become romantically involved with the young woman Maria. Now, there is no description of love making, even though you know it is going on and no swearing because in his infinite wisdom Hemingway substituted every expletive with phrases like, “go defile yourself,” or “I will obscenity in the milk.” This to me was somewhat annoying. I found it humorous that no expletives were allowed in this book while we read many pages of decapitations, mutilations, rapes, and tortures. I wondered how many novels in the 1930s were written like this. Sad to say in all my library classes we did not cover that.
One benefit from rereading this book was that I was prodded to refresh my memory about the Spanish Civil War and Hemingway history. Also, once again as I read the last chapter I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to get to the end of the action.