Title: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Genre: American Classic about Spain
Rating: 2.5 of 5
I try to give most well-known classic authors at least a couple tries before I decide that they’re not for me. After all, theoretically, there must be something of value in their writing since it’s considered classic. This was my third Hemingway and probably my last.
I found the general subject matter interesting: a guerrilla’s-eye-view of the Spanish civil war. Stylistically, the famed stripped-down Hemingway style neither amazes nor annoys me (though the deliberate self-censorship featuring phrases like, “go to the unprintable and unprint thyself” was humorous). What grates on me with Hemingway is the bleak outlook that seems to pervade his work and his obsession with macho manliness. I can see how he would appeal to some people, but I probably won’t bother with anything else by him. I don’t need 400+ pages of “It’s probably going to fail and even if it doesn’t what’s the point of it all?”
I’m using this as for the Classic that has been on your TBR the longest category at the Back to the Classics Challenge (I kept putting off trying Hemingway again, hoping that older me would get more out of it… the experiment was not a success). That’s the last category that I needed to finish, so stay tuned later this week for the wrap-up post.
Author: Hannu Rajaniemi
Genre: Espionage Thriller / Alternate History / Supernatural Fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Future Release Date: 6/26/18 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC through NetGalley…this does not affect the content of the review)
The overall plot of this book follows a mole hunt on the order of LeCarré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. However, in this alternate 1938 death is merely a transition into a different dimension (or something) that still interacts with the world of the living. “The Great Game” continues on both sides of death as the British and Russian Empires vie for supremacy with the Spanish Civil War as their chessboard.
I won’t go into much detail about how Summerland (where dead Brits go) and the Presence (the Soviet collective afterlife) work because gradually discovering how this world operates and what kind of effect the meaninglessness of death has on society is half the fun. The actual spy storyline is well-plotted, incorporating historical characters and events and heading in an unexpected direction by the end.
Unfortunately, there were a few issues with the writing style that detracted from my enjoyment of the book: weak characterization that made it hard to tell characters apart, stilted dialogue due to no one using contractions, and too much time spent on our protagonist’s relationship woes. Some of that may be my own personal preference or exhausting schedule lately, so don’t let me discourage you if this sounds interesting. The author has created a fascinating world, and I would love to read another book set there.