Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top 20 Books, #9

Well, it's been over 2 weeks since I announced favorite book #10, so #9 is a bit overdue. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls did not make the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels lists, although a couple of other Hemingway novels did.

But we may have all read The Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises may rank higher, but this novel about the Spanish Civil War was my first true Hemingway experience. It was this novel in which I first gasped at the beautiful power of his prose, and I still recall sitting riveted on my lunch breaks at the Bank of America cafeteria, oblivious to the noises around me.

Hemingway's pure, simple language allowed me to see through the eyes of the protagonist, Robert Jordan, free-lancing as a demolitions expert fighting the fascists in Spain, intent on destroying a bridge. In the noise of war, there is the pristine silence of the forest, and the repeating cadence of the sounds of the war intruding into this natural scene.

For Whom the Bell Tolls has been called one of the greatest war novels ever written. I not only read this book, I felt it. When night's chill fell, I shivered. When the sun blazed, my temperature rose. I fell in love. I feared for my life and, at the end, I was at peace, feeling as if I had accomplished something great, as the blue sky blazed and I sensed the world creeping forward, leaving me behind in its wake.

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