In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from “the good fight”, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan’s love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo’s last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise.
“If the function of a writer is to reveal reality,” Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, “no one ever so completely performed it.” Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author’s previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.
When I first opened For Whom The Bell Tolls, I had no idea what the book was about besides the very short synopsis you see before you. Another turn off was how long it was, but I figured if I enjoyed it I will not have a problem with the length.
I could NOT put this book down. Once Hemingway built a relationship between you and the characters, it was a hard decision on who was to stay and who was to go. I thought the idea of this being a war book and being tied into the main idea of blowing a bridge would eventually bore me. It did not.
The novel begins with the main character, Robert Jordan, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. We are told from the beginning that he is to infiltrate enemy lines and blow up a bridge. When Robert joins a group of partisans, this is where we find our characters. The story turns out to be pretty romantic for Robert Jordan falling for a “broken” girl, violent for the battles that take place, and having you wondering is someone going to take Pablo out of the equation? Hemingway made Robert a somewhat loveable character for being driven and yet in love, does he need to pick and choose in this?
Overall, it was a fantastic read and I believe it to be a real edge of your seat type story.