34 New Things: Read ‘The Sun Also Rises’

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are easy, some are hard, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about past adventures here
If you’re a recovering English Major, a book nerd, or a writer of any sort, there are certain books you really should read.
(Or rather, books you feel like you really should read.)
And somehow, I managed to make it through two university degrees and 33 years of life without reading The Sun Also Rises. Shock! Horror! Literary pearl clutching!
There are piles of ‘Important’ books I have no desire to read (I’m looking at you, Crime and Punishment) but I suspected I’d really, actually like this book. I like succinct writers. Like the good Mr. Hemingtway, I appreciate the outdoors and adventure and shenanigans and travel. I know what it is to trundle through a foreign country with your overly-gregarious expat friends, enjoying food and drink and festivals and batting your eyelashes at the locals.
And that’s basically what The Sun Also Rises is about. Jake is an American newspaper reporter, working in Paris. He’s been rendered impotent by a war injury and spends his time drinking with other expats writers and interesting/misdirected rich people. He’s in love with Bret Ashley, a charming woman who struggles with, um, commitment issues and has romantic entanglements with most of the men in her social circle. Jake, Bret, her fiance Mike, and Robert (who Bret also slept with) all travel to Spain together to watch the bullfights and things go awry when everyone starts drinking and 34-year-old Bret seduces a 19-year-old matador.
Of course, Hemingway is known for his incredibly tight, clean prose. I liked it. I didn’t, however, get that chest-aching “someday if I do my best maybe I’ll be able to craft one sentence as good as this” feeling that writers like Tim Winton and Annie Proulx bring on.
Occasionally, his paragraphs seemed to march like unpleasant little soldiers across the page:
The road came out of the shadow of the woods into the hot sun. Ahead was a river valley. Beyond the river was a steep hill. There was a field of buckwheat on the hill. We saw a white house under some trees on the hillside.
But sometimes I found him hilarious and snarky and wonderful.
I have never seen a man in civil life as nervous as Robert Cohn – nor as eager. I was enjoying it. It was lousy to enjoy it, but I felt lousy. Cohn had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anybody.
“The funny thing is he’s nice, too. I like him. But he’s just so awful.”
“He can be damn nice.”
“I know it. That’s the terrible part.”
The steps were very intricate and their faces were intent and concentrated. They all looked down while they danced. Their rope-soled shoes tapped and spatted on the pavement. The toes touched. The heels touched. The balls of the feet touched. Then the music broke wildly and the step was finished and they were all dancing on up the street.
“It’s a good hand,” Brett said. “I think he’ll live a long time.”
“Say it to me. Not to your friend.”
“I said you’ll live a long time.”
“I know it,” Romero said. “I’m never going to die.”
Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you you only have to spend a little money. I spent a little money and the waiter liked me. He appreciated my valuable qualities.
That seemed to handle it. That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love. That was it all right. I went in to lunch.
“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think to?”
Have you ever read any Hemingway? How did you feel about his writing style? In your opinion, which classics live up to their reputations?

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

New Thing: Forage For Mushrooms

New Thing: Forage For Mushrooms

What's hard to find, super valuable, and tastes heavenly with scrambled eggs? If you guessed a. the right romantic partner b. a really good pair of leather boots c. morel mushrooms you are correct. Every year, I make a list of new things to try and I've been wanting...

read more
New Thing: Be In My Life

New Thing: Be In My Life

Every year I make a list of new things to try. These New Things are a pretty predictable mix of physical challenges, weird foods, and books/movies that everyone-other-than-me is familiar with. But this year, I’m trying something different. Something that’s, honestly,...

read more
New Thing: Read East of Eden

New Thing: Read East of Eden

I always thought that I hated Steinbeck. His books seemed to be a never-ending parade of men and farms and depression and desperation. I remember dragging myself through Grapes of Wrath in 11th grade English, staring into the middle distance with bone-shaking boredom...

read more


  1. Ellie Di

    I've never cared much for Hemingway, so I haven't read this one. But I can certainly empathize with the "I haven't read XYZ book! It's a classic! What's wrong with me!" feeling. My plan for remedying that was to put Time's 100 Best Novels on my life list; I've read several, but there are so many on there I "should" read, so now I've got a list of things I can check off AND feel like a smarty pants. 🙂

  2. Kaisa

    I have read more the one book by Hemingway, including this one. But it was years ago, so I don't remember much. I was in my I-like-those-dudes-in-war-and-stuff phase. I loved Remarque. But I also liked Hemingway. Funny fact: I am going to Pamplona this weekend for San Fermin Festival. 😉 xx


    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Whhhaaat! That's so awesome – have fun!

  3. Sarah M

    Not a huge Hemingway fan. I've had to read a number of his books in high school and college, and I don't remember liking a single one. I do, however, remember heaving a huge sigh whenever I saw his name on the syllabus. Perhaps I was biased after two bad reads, but I have no desire to read anymore of them.
    Two of my long-time favorite books that are considered modern classics are The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) and Brave New World (Aldous Huxley).
    Sarah M

  4. Metamorphocity

    I really loved The Sun Also Rises, and having read it made my trips to Pamplona for the running of the bulls and Madrid, where I actually watched a bullfight (which I somehow thought would be more like the bugs bunny version and less like plain old killing animals and the occasional man. Whoops.) even more surreal.

  5. cassandrattp

    I adore Hemingway! I read "Farewell to Arms" as part of my "Live List: Reading Edition", and was very moved by how frankly he discusses things every "serious" writer covers and over-poeticizes (like the inevitably of death–and the need to live fully while alive!).

  6. cassandrattp

    I adore Hemingway! I read "Farewell to Arms" as part of my "Live List: Reading Edition", and was very moved by how frankly he discusses things every "serious" writer covers and over-poeticizes (like the inevitably of death–and the need to live fully while alive!).

  7. Anonymous

    I packed The Sun Also Rises for my jaunt through Spain; it was a small book and an appropriate read. I was also carrying my broken heart in the bottom of my backpack (thanks to the Scottish Bastard) and sexy times were definitely out for me…so it was great to consider Brett's steamy escapades!

  8. Sara Rose

    I love!!!!! Hemingway. I love his sudden bits of snark and greater moments of quiet reckoning with life. Favorite author.

  9. rachelannpierce

    I don't think I've read any Hemingway, but I love the I've-read-this-classic-and-can-talk-about-it-forever feeling. I was incredibly lucky to have some awesome teachers in school who were able to get me excited about Crime and Punishment and The Dollhouse, Slaughterhouse 5 and 1985.

  10. accordingtojulie

    I love Hemingway's writing, and as a journalist, I admire his ability to pack so much story into so few words. The Norwegian writer Hans Børli once said that writing well is a question of finding "small enough words for great enough emotion" (my translation; I'm Norwegian). Hemingway does just that.

    However, I think I prefer his short stories to his novels. Check out "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

  11. Reading Abbey

    Hi Yes & Yes from a local friend : )

    I'm one of those weird people that love Hemingway and Faulkner. But I also sympathize with not having read everything I feel like I *should* have read by now. However, I have found great freedom in the idea that certain books need to hit us at a very specific time in our lives (no telling when – that's the exciting part!) in order to have a real impact. Thus, I started the Brothers K. about 3 separate times over the past ten years to no avail, and this sumemr – voila! I'm glued to it. So, try, try again. Sometime later. All the greats will find a place and time to speak to you and to me.

    I do love his short stories, like the reader above. Hills Like White Elephants, for example.

  12. seldom

    Ah, Tim Winton. Have you tried Helen Garner? Another in the tight-lipped Australian fiction club, but slightly (only slightly) less masculine than Our Tim. I recommend The First Stone (it may make you cross), Monkey Grip (a bit rambly but ace) and the Spare Room.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh! Thanks for the recommendation – I SO love Tim Winton. Like, I just bought a hard cover copy of 'Cloudstreet' for my 'Permanent Collection.'

    • seldom

      I love it so much. My favourite of his, although the Turning and the Riders come second. Did you see the TV show? I missed it. Am half afraid to watch it cos it might not stack up.

    • My name is Elle

      Tim is one of my all time favourites! As an Aussie girl living very far away from her native land I read him to make me blissfully homesick; Cloudstreet is set in my hometown and the dreamy, languid descriptions of the landscape never fail to call me home to the sun and the water. I've never read any Helen Garner though, I'm looking forward to her!

  13. Leigh

    Sarah, if you haven't read "A Moveable Feast" yet you MUST. It's a memoir of Hemingway's time in Paris hanging out with all sorts of brilliant artists. There is a different energy to that book. I can't quite explain it. My high school English teacher gave it to me when I graduated and headed off to art school. What a gift. (Long live the English teachers!)

  14. Meandering Design

    I do have a fondness for Hemingway. I think I prefer A Farewell to Arms though. I highly recommend the Nick Adams Stories. It's a collection of short stories and I think Hemingway is a little more accessible in short story form.

    @Reading Abbey- I too have a fondness for Hemingway and Faulkner. I especially adore the books that Faulkner wrote that are set in Yoknapatawpha County. It's like this microcosm world that he created.

  15. Jess @ Sweet Athena

    I read 'The Sun Also Rises' last summer and was disappointed. I didn't think it was bad by any means, it just didn't speak to me like I thought it might. I guess I just didn't connect with the story and writing style like many do. The only other Hemingway I have read was 'A Moveable Feast', which I loved.

  16. Christy@SweetandSavoring

    Such great excerpts- and I'd love a few of those pictures on my wall! Love that old style 🙂 If I recall correctly I read The Sun Also Rises back in 11th grade English- and I loved how passionate my teacher was about Hemingway. His descriptive style is really like no one else's 🙂

Pin It on Pinterest