Tag: book reviews

Books

Under One Roof Book Review is full of Terrible communication, Decent Banter, Awkward Endings, and Bachelor References

Pros

  • Good banter
  • Sweet relationship between Helena
  • Friendship between Mara and her friends was
  • Good concept- EPA environmental scientist and Corporate Oil Lawyer
  • Hooked me in
  • References to The Bachelor

Cons

  • Weird prologue returns to the ending
  • Overly clueless MC
  • Plot by communication issues
  • Seriously…their inability to communicate make me want to jump off into the abyss
  • Confusing Demisexuality representation (although the idea of rep is good)

I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, so I was pretty excited to read Ali Hazelwood’s new novella, Under One Roof. The book was only $2.99 on the Kindle store, so I figured why not give it a try while I wait for her next book to come out. It wasn’t a bad choice.

This book was a fun read. The dialogue was entertaining and the idea worked fairly well. I think it would have been better if Hazelwood either turned this into an entire book or if she included Liam’s POV as well. The book all takes place from Mara’s perspective, which is fine, but since this was an enemies-to-lover story, I wanted to know what Liam was thinking about Mara and the house situation. I learned about his character primarily through his facial expressions and his stoic demeanor, which isn’t the best way to understand someone.

I liked his character (maybe because I like law and lawyers and his love of video games), and I liked seeing a more reserved/quiet character in a book, but by the end, I still felt like I didn’t know him that well.

The other relationships were pretty well done. Mara’s friends Sadie and Hannah were sweet, and I liked the scenes of three amazing scientist friends talking about their relationships, work, and life stuff. They like to watch Parks and Rec and make brownies together and…Same Sadie. Same.

I enjoyed Mara’s relationship with Helena and the memories that she shares about Helena’s life. Helena felt like a real person, and I could imagine her bold personality as I read. Even though she was dead, she was much more than a plot point. You can tell Helena was a good mother-figure/mentor to her. It feels heartfelt and not too sappy. I enjoyed reading the letter that Mara wrote to her; it felt funny and real.

Mara’s relationship with her mentor, Helena, and her response to Helena’s death is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Helena was a strong-willed and unpredictable woman, and I kind of aspire to be her someday. She cheats at chess, loves Mara like a daughter, sets up her nephew with her by giving her the house, and hates cheesiness and sentimentality I feel like Helena is dropped once Mara and Liam get together, and it is a damn shame. It would have been interesting exploring their grief. Mara’s letter to Helena was one of my favorite parts of the book. I’m going to share some of my favorite parts.

Mara is someone who doesn’t quite believe in an afterlife, or is at the very least unsure about it. She says:

“Truth be told, I stopped pondering eschatological matters in high school after they got me anxious and made me break out in hives”

I feel that, can’t say I don’t ponder these things, but thinking about life after death is anxiety-inducing. There is unpredictability no matter what you believe. I never got hives, though. She also says:

“You probably just sit on a cloud all day being omniscient. Eating Triscuits. Occasionally playing the harp. You lazy bum.”

I don’t get the pervading myth that people play the harp in heaven all the time. Maybe Hazelwood took this idea from Huckleberry Finn. In the beginning of the book, Huck says that going to heaven sounds boring, because people just go around and play the harp all day. I can’t picture omniscient God would make heaven boring–at least Mara’s version sounds kind of fun. I love a good Triscuit and a lazy day. I’m not sure I’d want to know everything though. That sounds overwhelming.

I liked how Helena’s house is her safe harbor, it is a place where she feels comfortable. We never get the ending to that letter she writes.

Mara’s Relationship with Her Parents

I actually liked Mara’s character development. We learn that her parents were people that didn’t want to be parents. We get little details like that her parents saw her as too energetic, and they enrolled her in sports to keep her busy and out of their hair. This is why her relationship with Helena is so important; she acted as a mentor and cared about Mara like a daughter. Apparently Mara only talks to her parents once or twice a year, and she is the one who calls.

Helena also isn’t as close to her family either. I feel like these scenes could be expanded upon more though. I feel like I liked the idea of Mara’s character development, but it didn’t show up as much as I hoped. We never really learn more about Liam’s relationship with his family either, except that he isn’t too close with them.

Other than that, I do have some complaints. This book felt very fanficy, and while that isn’t entirely a bad thing–it feels like it was thrown together or written chapter-by-chapter. The Prologue and last scene mesh together awkwardly.

He likes you, Mara–why don’t you see this?

It bugged me how Mara is completely clueless and has no idea that Liam could possibly be attracted to her. I think Ali Hazelwood likes writing main characters who are oblivious about matters of human attraction and interaction, because Olive was the same way.

But he obviously likes her! The man looks at her awkwardly and then looks away, looks distant when she says she’s moving out, cuddles with her when she’s cold, and feels left out when she’s with another guy. She assumes that he likes his friend Emma and wants to be with her, even after he plainly tells her that he and Emma are just friends and neither is interested in each other. He thinks she’s brilliant and enjoys spending time with her. And there is SO MUCH TENSION between them in these scenes. The man is flustered around her ALL THE TIME. She has feelings for him. How could Mara not consider, even for a minute, that Liam might like her too?

I understand a bit though. I can be oblivious about how people feel, especially if they’re quiet like Liam, but if I had a feelings for someone (like Mara did for Liam during at least half of the book), I would overanalyze every single interaction to find out whether or not he returned my affections. Mara never does this, she just assumes. But Mara is convinced that Liam is dating someone else and just wants to be friends with her.

I’d like to see a confident MC for once. Why wouldn’t he like her? Because he has muscles? She is fit too. Because he is annoyed with her? He doesn’t seem too annoyed when they become friends. I feel like she disliked him first. It could be awkward to admit feelings for your roommate, but still. Get it together. But enough complaining about roommate drama for now, lets talk about the height of romantic drama and tension–The Bachelor.

The Bachelor References

Liam and Mara watch The Bachelor, and I am all here for it. I enjoy watching The Bachelor and The Bachleorette sometimes, and I appreciated their comments on the show. Mara even runs a bachelor franchise blog. I approve. We don’t get real references though, because she talks about season 12, which is JoJo’s season, but they talk use another woman’s name. It is a shame; I wanted to know their thoughts on the real bachelorette. Is there a copyright issue? I’d hope not. It was still pretty fun though. I can relate to rooting for the bachelor/ette to end up with a contestant that they don’t end up with. They also could have talked about all those weird challenges that the producers put them up to; that would be great.

I feel like I would read a whole story of these two reacting to a real season of the bachelor, not because their banter regarding the subject was anything amazing, but I feel like it could be a fun story.

The Demi Rep

The book was marketed as “demi rep”, which basically means that one of the main characters is demisexual. According to Web MD, “Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with that person.” The definition goes on to say,

“Demisexual people do not feel primary attraction — the attraction you feel to someone when you first meet them. They only feel secondary attraction — the type of attraction that happens after knowing someone for a while.”

I originally thought Mara might be demi, but I wasn’t sure. She has problems with guys and finding someone that she is attracted to, as many of us do demi or not, but her relationship with dating seems a bit different than other people’s.

“But even at their best, all my romantic relationships felt like work in a way Sadie and Hannah and Helena never did. In a way actual work never did. And for what? Sex? Jury’s still out on whether I even care about that.”

It was a bit confusing on that end.

I didn’t like the ending. It seemed like Hazelwood decided to throw all the ending, conversation, and dialogue that needed to be had into the middle of a sex scene. it is also kind of creepy how Liam keeps saying “is this how you wanted it?” to Mara.

Liam basically starts recreating a fantasy that he overhears Mara talking on the phone to her friends about. It is so awkward… The characters barely talk to each other beforehand. There seems to be consent, but it is very confusing.

Overall though, this was a fun novella. I enjoyed reading it for the witty banter alone. If you like Ali Hazelwood’s writing style and humor–and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief–this novella is a solid choice. Just don’t put your expectations too high.

Have you read Under One Roof or The Love Hypothesis? Do you plan to? Let me know down in the comments below 🙂

Books

Grove City College put on A Doll’s House and I Have Opinions

A Doll’s House is available to read on Project Gutenberg’s website.

Trigger Warning: This play is primarily about a toxic marriage and emotional abuse by a husband to his wife. It includes continuous yelling that comes out of nowhere and occurs for several minutes, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional abuse.

I recently saw A Doll’s House for the first time at Grove City College. This is a well-written play and I would highly recommend watching it. The actors at Grove City College were phenomenal and they really captured the drama and characters well. I am including spoilers for the play in my review, so if you don’t want to know, well, almost everything, I would stop reading after this paragraph.

Now, onto the review.

Before I went to see this play, I looked it up to see what it was about, and I was slightly surprised that Grove City College chose to cover a story about a Norwegian woman struggling in her marriage and a male-dominated society. Considering the ending, I was even more surprised that they chose to put it on.

The ending my college chose also is not the remade ending, but some details were changed. For example, there are no child actors in this play, likely because we are college students, and the couple’s children are only referenced. But other than that, the play is pretty much the same show that was and still is extremely controversial.

I read the director’s note, which was written by director and professor Dr. Betsy Craig, and I realized that my assumption was completely wrong. This play is more connected to Grove City College than I thought was possible. The author, Henrik Ibsen and A Doll’s House are drawn and written on the stained glass windows, among other famous intellectual figures, in Crawford auditorium. Ibsen is considered the father of modern drama, so it makes sense that he is included in this list.

I also learned by reading the director’s note that Ibsen did not intentionally write a feminist play. He was invited to a meeting with his wife for the Norwegian League for Women’s Rights, but he told them didn’t know what the women’s rights movement was even about. Craig says Ibsen said that the problem meant to address in A Doll’s House was: “True enough, it is desirable to solve the women problem, along with all others; but that has not been my whole purpose. My task has been the description of humanity.”

Typical of a man, I think, to reduce half of the populations lack of rights and ability to make important decisions for themselves into the phrase “the women problem.” But of course, his point proves that the troubles of women are universal and necessary for us to acknowledge, as members of the human race. Isben didn’t address the women’s suffrage movement, but his play this play broke barriers, nevertheless. Some audiences were outraged, and alternative endings and rewrites were required.

Ibsen perhaps unintentionally tells us the message that we need to hear. That women’s rights are the rights of the humanity. He sees Nora’s plight not just as a “woman’s problem”, that only concerns the “feminists”, but a problem that humanity as a core holds, and that problem too, should be addressed and put on center stage.

Nora’s feeling of entrapment is attributed to the patriarchy, and her concerns are validated. The play shows the brokenness of a system that desperately needs mending and it doesn’t end with complete brokenness. Dr. Craig even notes in the director’s note that the play ends on a hopeful note.

There is hope for the audience–for us to listen to Nora, Torvald, and the people around them and to empathize and understand them. There is hope for us to learn to listen to others and understand what they’re going through rather than assume.

I’ll say now that I can’t completely hate Torvald. His actions are inexcusable. He insults, objectifies, and treats his wife, Nora, terribly. His shift from anger and blame to begging for forgiveness is shocking. He is self-centered and doesn’t attempt to understand anyone around him. But no one has told him that he needs to understand anyone else. Torvald is a man with power and he feels like his wife should serve his every need.

He is part a product of a time where men and women lived in different spheres. He is allowed to diminish Nora and call her a “songbird” and “a child.” Such terms are romanticized and celebrated. Torvald is considered what is called a successful man. The culture was fine with reducing your spouse to a child and creature that exists to give you joy and music.

Money and forgery

Nora’s forgery is a dumb mistake that drives the plot. It is also a result of not educating women on finance. Nora’s decision to forge her father’s signature on a loan, and then accidentally dating it after he already died, is what drives the conflict in the story. But the problem goes deeper than that.

At the beginning of the story, Torvald berates her for not managing money well, but he doesn’t know she’s paying off a loan that saved his life. As a woman, she can’t even take out a loan without a man’s signature according to the law. She is also forced to keep this a secret, because her husband doesn’t want to take out loans. Dude, your life is at stake, let down your pride for a second…man…

The major obstacle is the patriarchal society that refuses to allow women to manage their own money. Nora is utterly unable to manage money herself, and if she could, none of this would have happened in the first place.

I want to talk about Mrs. Linde for a moment.

Mrs. Kristine Linde

Mrs. Linde is a fascinating character. I think without her, much of the message of this play could be lost. She too is a woman living in a world where women are treated as secondary.

She often tells Nora that she is older, that she has had life experience that Nora hasn’t had yet. She has worked her entire life. She never got to be a wife supported by her husband, who she married to pay to take care of her mother instead of love, and she has no family. Her husband ended up dying and leaving her a poor widow. When she returns to see Nora, it has been ten years since the two have stayed in touch.

Mrs. Linde isn’t the idealized working woman. Nora tells Mrs. Linde that must be so much better than Nora’s, but Kristine responds:

“No, indeed; I only feel my life unspeakably empty. No one to live for anymore.”

She has been doing manual work and hopes for an office job. She has few friends and family. I think it is important to note that we can’t exist on work alone, we need people, desperately, in our lives. Life is not filled by financial autonomy, although I’m sure Kristine appreciates that she will no longer have to worry about money.

But when we look at the ending, it is unclear whether or not Kristine will stay in touch with Nora. We don’t know if she has any friends to spend time with and survive her.

I suppose this leads me to wonder, does Mrs. Linde love Nils Krogstad? She initially talks with him to help distract him from Nora, and then she decides she wants to be with him because she’s loathes being alone. I can’t help but wonder if she really does want to be with him romantically. Does she, or is she terrified of feeling empty and he is there? I’m not sure.

As much as I question, I do hope they found a way to be happy together.

Dr. Rank

I’m not sure what else to say about Dr. Rank except that I feel sorry for him. I wonder what would have happened if he had lived or if Nora had fallen in love with him instead. It was sweet of him to admit that he would make sacrifices for her before he died. It shows she has options too, that Nora has options, that care for her isn’t reduced to Torvald. He also shows how unfair the world is and how in different circumstances it could be better. His story ends unfairly; Mr. Rank, a kind person, dies while Torvald lives.

II wonder about Nora’s ending. She decides to leave and start a new life, but she has no one. Her children are left behind, and she doesn’t have anyone who cares for her. I’m going to dive into the children in a bit, but I’m going to look at Nora’s speech first. One interesting thing I noticed was the religion and religious language in the play.

Religion and religious language in the play

A doll’s house touches on religion, Christianity, and relates to it as a moral system. The story interestingly takes place during Christmas. Nora also keeps a lie for three days, a notable number in the Bible. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. But, while the characters decorate the tree and dance around, there are no, at least outwardly devout, Christians in this play. Torvald accuses Nora of a lack of religion when she is leaving him, saying that she has “no religion, no morality, no sense of duty.”

Nora’s father was a Christian, but she personally never claims to follow his faith. Torvald doesn’t mention his own faith, so it is unclear whether he is a practicing Christian or not. It doesn’t seem like it. Also, Torvald is betraying his duties as a husband to love his wife as himself. So, he’s not one to talk–at all.

But he does, idiotically, use her father’s Christian faith to argue for Nora’s place in the home while doing nothing to acknowledge his own failure as a husband.

“Can you not understand your place in your own home? Have you not a reliable guide in such matters as that?—have you no religion?”

Christianity is used justify the wife’s place in the home and judge Nora’s decision to leave, but little else. Nora it seems also does not know much about religion, she says she was told things by a clergyman, but she feels little to have any personal connection to his statements.

She says that she wants to think it out for herself, when she is alone. Nora’s arguments show her reasoning out how she understands the world for herself. She is also humble, she admits that she does not understand the world fully and that she plans to learn in the future. All while she processes this, Torvald insists she doesn’t know anything and is being a child. But he’s wrong. She is growing in understanding and self-awareness. She is realizing what it means to be an adult and can make moral and ethical judgements for herself. Her husband fails to recognize his own problematic behavior and goes on to invalidate her feelings.

Nora leaves because life with him is always a life under a man’s thumb. She is being suffocated under his objectification of her. This argument erupts into the truth about Nora. That she as an individual has a complex life, a spiritual, emotional, and political life that deserves to develop and grow without just extending from the men around her.

Now, if she were a married woman without children, the story might be simpler. Marital counseling also was not common at the time, and even then, I’m not sure if her husband would agree to go.

I’ll also note that this story supports marriage as an institution, Nora says that her relationship to her husband would be “real wedlock” if he changed. The part where she leaves her children is a part I do struggle with, but it is necessary for us to remember that neither of these characters are perfect. I don’t see Nora’s decision as a call for all mothers who feel like Nora to leave their kids behind in search for financial success and independence. If there is a husband who is capable of change, marriage can be made right. But this isn’t Nora’s situation.

Nora’s Decision to Leave her Husband and Children Behind

Nora made a decision to leave a toxic marriage, and she leaves knowing that the children would be in good hands. She doesn’t not care about her kids at all.

For example, in the script, which I found on Project Gutenberg, there is a scene where Nora sees her children. Nora talks to them after they have played outside:

“How fresh and well you look! Such red cheeks like apples and roses. [The children all talk at once while she speaks to them.] Have you had great fun? That’s splendid! What, you pulled both Emmy and Bob along on the sledge? —both at once?—that was good. You are a clever boy, Ivar. Let me take her for a little, Anne. My sweet little baby doll!”

Nora clearly loves her kids, and cares about them. The play I watched didn’t include the children as characters. Either way, I don’t think that Nora wanted to leave her children.

One argument that I thought of, admittedly before I actually watched the play, was that Nora could take her children with her and leave them Torvald behind. Looking at the play now, this is not an option, considering that first, Torvald would never to allow Nora to take their children from him. Second, if Nora chose to take them with her, she would be desolate and would be putting innocent kids into poverty.

Torvald has the money and resources (and nannies) to provide for the children financially at the very least.. The situation can be awful in any case. It sounds like Nora is unlikely to return to them, but we don’t know. I’m not saying that this completely justifies her decision, but it explains her reasoning.

If she were to try to make it work with Torvald, he would have to be open to really listening to her and treat her not just an object, but a human being with feelings and emotions as complex as his own. I’m not a marriage counselor, but I’m not sure if they could have worked it out on their own. Perhaps if a real marriage counselor were available at the time perhaps they could make it work or perhaps they would separate anyway. Considering the way Torvald insults to her at the end, I am leaning toward the latter.

He never appreciates her as a person or her abilities. After all, she took a huge risk to save her life.

When Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him, she says that there will be freedom on both sides when she leaves him. Neither have any obligation to the other. She needs to cut ties because she knows he will try to rope her back the moment he even gives her an inch. She also knows that her children will be taken care of in this house.

You could say she’s being irresponsible, that she is thinking for herself alone. I’m not sure we have to agree with her choice, and we also have to remember that Nora is a victim of emotional abuse and she is escaping a this situation and intense pressure in the only way she knows how.

I also don’t think Nora will experience self-actualization and a perfect life outside of her marriage. Mrs. Linde, after all, works for herself but has no one. Nora’s decision, while perhaps preferable, is not ideal. Nora faces isolation and the same emptiness that Mrs. Linde feels by deciding to walk away. Perhaps she will find happiness and community somewhere, but that’s not the main point of the story. Nora’s decision is objectively risky, but she still feels like she cannot make any other choice.

In a society where women are objects without rights, Nora rebels. The system crushes her and she abandons responsibility to a world that belittles and refuses her dignity as a person. In all honesty, the ending is uncomfortable, but I’m not just uncomfortable with a mother, who has been shown to love her children, leaving them indefinitely.

I’m uncomfortable with her husband’s objectification of her, and his dismissal of her individuality, growth, and personhood. I’m uncomfortable with a patriarchal society that reduces women to their physical appearance, and their purpose to serving men and their needs. I’m uncomfortable with a world that only offers men the ability to grow as individuals, provide financially for themselves, and understand the world and their place in it. I’m uncomfortable with a society that only expects them to be mothers and wives and expects them to always comply without receiving any respect.

This is an amazing play. The dialogue is great and it is full of emotional depth. Henrik Ibsen is the father of modern drama for a reason, and I’m glad I saw his work in person.

Today, the message is still relevant and it is important to remember. A Doll’s House inspires empathy, for Nora, Dr. Rank, Mrs. Kristie, and Torvald. It reminds us of the necessity understanding each other and realizing that our view of the world is not universal and that just because we are happy with the way things are doesn’t mean they are right. We understand Torvald’s position without defending him. Maybe we even see ourselves in his viewpoint, in his complacency, in his unwillingness to listen.

Perhaps most importantly, Nora express that she is not happy with the male-dominated society, her expected role in it, and the man that she’s supposed to love. I don’t expect Nora to be perfect, and I appreciate her watching the play and really listening to what she says, we give her the same right that everyone deserves, the right that her husband and society deny her. The right to make choices, to think for herself, to share a different perspective, and ultimately, the right to be human.

I think, that is why I’m glad to have seen this play and to see A Doll’s House and Henrik Ibsen on the Crawford windows.

Have you seen or read A Doll’s House? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below!

Books

It’s Not All Misogyny: 7 Reasons to Read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: A Spoiler Free Review

It’s Not All Misogyny: 7 Reasons to Read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: A Spoiler Free Review

Intro

The Sun Also Rises was published by Ernest Hemingway. I read this novel in my 20th Century Novel Class. I enjoyed this book, but there are some flaws. I’m going to aim for as few spoilers as possible in this review. The novel is about Jake Barnes, who travels with some friends to the Fiesta de San Fermin in Spain after World War 2. While he visits the Spanish Countryside and watches the bullfighting competition, Jake struggles with a war injury and post-war delusion as he tries to find a code to live by. It is a beautiful novel.

I looked at reviews for this article on Goodreads and I was disappointed. The novel is not just a book about a bunch of guys who chase an idealized woman. The novel is much more than that, and I am going to defend it, and Brett as a character as well.

The novel does have some problematic elements, Robert Cohn is a Jewish character who Hemingway stereotypes. He is the only Jewish character, but he is portrayed as annoying and he is mocked by all the other characters. Brett is also sexualized and treated as an object by many of the male characters, but it is realistic of the time she lived in. If we look past Jake’s perception of her, she is more complex than he gives her credit for. Cohn, unfortunately, is not treated with as much understanding, but he is pitied at least. Upon acknowledging these problems, the novel is worth reading and appreciating for the good elements. My review mostly talks about the good, but first, we will talk about alcohol.

The characters drink an absurd amount of alcohol. The characters drink every few pages and it is pretty concerning. If they are drunk the entire book, I’m not surprised considering the decisions they make. I feel like it is easy to say the book is full of people who drink all the time, but it is more than that. The characters want to numb the pain of the war and of the lives they live. They long for something greater but make awful decisions along the way. For a book with people who are always drinking, there is plenty of beautiful descriptions of nature and the atmosphere around them.

  1. Unusual Male Protagonist

Jake was wounded in the war and is impotent. I hadn’t read a book with a male protagonist in Jake’s situation before and I was surprised it was included. Jake lives a full life and maintains good friendships. Hemingway is an author who seems concerned with masculinity, so it was nice to see that Jake is never less of a man or person because he doesn’t have sex. Sex and romance bring drama for everyone who is in a relationship in this novel.

Jake, like many of Hemingway’s protagonists, was in the war. The novel deals with the post-war delusion and in a modernist novel fashion, he shows the ways we try to explain and ignore the events that happened to us. Hemingway was also famous for his “iceberg principle.” He was notorious for cutting out any bit of unnecessary information. There is so much information under the surface of conversations and thoughts that Hemingway doesn’t state. Many of these people feel broken and are looking for relief as well as a code to explain the world around them. We see all this in Jake, he isn’t idealized or perfected, no one is, and he screws up. He has to live with his choices just like all the characters do.

2. Spanish Bullfighting and Culture

I have never been to Spain or traveled to the Fiesta De San Fermin, but Hemingway made it feel like I had a ticket. Hemingway traveled all the time, and in his lifetime, he made more than 20 trips to Spain. He captures an outsider’s perspective of Spanish culture during this festival. He describes the beauty, excitement, and sadness in the event. Romero is a major bullfighter in the novel and he is beautiful. Hemingway saw bullfighting as a sacred experience that requires a deep connection between the bull and the bullfighter. From what I have heard about horseback riding, it is similar.

There is also a contrast with culture. The tourists are focused on having fun and drinking the day away and it feels like a constant party but not a good one. The descriptions of bullfighting and Spanish culture reveal a code of living that Hemingway deeply admires. Pay attention to his descriptions of bullfighting. They are where Hemingway shines.

3. Brett is the new woman

The only main female character in the novel is Lady Brett Ashley. At the time of the novel, she was The New Woman. She was a common trope and ideal for a woman after the war. She rejects the ideals of the chaste, Victorian woman. She is a woman who drinks, who smokes, who hangs out with the dudes. She outdoes all the men; she is one of the boys. All the guys want to date her. The male protagonist pines after her. Another guy even fights for her honor. Her boyfriend doesn’t care much for her and treats her poorly. She could simply be a male fantasy, but if you take a minute and look at her outside the male perspective–you might realize the guys are missing something. Although she is written under the male gaze, Jake once describes her as a motorboat, her character is more than she appears.

Lady Brett Ashley is a woman who is aware of what people think of her. She knows what she’s doing and she’s not as confident as we think. She is her own harshest critic. We see the facade of Brett, but the flashes we see are of someone with insecurities and doubts. She wonders about going to confession and feels anxious when she goes to a church. She is real, whether anyone notices or not. Though she is breaking societal roles, her role in the world is one that has been created for men. The men enjoy her personality as is, she doesn’t challenge or make them change in any way. She has to realize if this is someone she really wants to be and if so, she should break bad habits and unhealthy cycles.

4. Stunning Landscape

The descriptions of the Spanish countryside in The Sun Also Rises are gorgeous. Bill and Jake look out the window on the way there and well, here’s a quote:

“We all got in the car and it started up the white dusty road into Spain. For a while the country was much as it had been; then, climbing all the time, we crossed the top of a Col, the road winding back and forth on itself, and then it was really Spain. There were long brown mountains and a few pines and far-off forests of beech-trees on some of the mountainsides. The road went along the summit of the Col and then dropped down, and the driver had to honk, and slow up, and turn out to avoid running into two donkeys that were sleeping in the road. We came down out of the mountains and through an oak forest, and there were white cattle grazing in the forest. Down below there were grassy plains and clear streams, and then we crossed a stream and went through a gloomy little village, and started to climb again. We climbed up and up and crossed another high Col and turned along with it, and the road ran down to the right, and we saw a whole new range of mountains off to the south, all brown and baked-looking and furrowed in strange shapes.”

5. Sweet Portrayal of Male Friendship

Bill is another charming side character. He is a friend of Jake’s and he’s the only one who doesn’t pine after Brett. He is funny and a good friend to Jake. They go fishing together and have fun and it is nice to watch. They play off each other well, and though they are quite different, the two get along. It was nice to have a break from some of the more dramatic scenes.

6. Engagement with Catholicism

The novel takes place in a time where there is much misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants and by in a time, I mean all times. The confusion has always been there. Always. Jake is a Catholic, but he is a bit of a lapsed Catholic. The modernist era includes a doubt in traditional religion, and Jake’s relationship with the church feels unusual. His doubts aren’t strong, but the post-war world he lives in and the people he surrounds himself with do not value growing or understanding faith in any meaningful way. But he still attends church and participates in Catholic traditions. Jake feels simultaneously connected with and disconnected with the rites and experiences of church. His relationship with religion feels real. The church isn’t a huge topic of discussion or major plot point, but it is layered throughout the story. That’s part of why I love Hemingway. He touches on issues with subtlety, and if you blink you will miss them, but they are so rich.

The title is also a reference to Ecclesiastes, and the words fit the novel well. The beauty of a rising sun also fits with the beauty of the material world.

7. The Difficulty of Redemption, Forgiveness, and Understanding Each Other

There were times where I felt let down. I felt both connected to and disconnected from Jake’s narration. He is an imperfect narrator, Hemingway sees things that Jake doesn’t see. If we look we can see cracks. That is part of the beauty of this novel. So many characters have obvious seeming faults, but when we look inside, they are not as obvious and easily solvable. Jake’s relationship with Brett is complicated. They are attracted but can’t ever be together. Jake knows Brett and he doesn’t know Brett. They have an understanding, but both feel misunderstood and alone. I found their entire dynamic fascinating, toxic at times, astounding. Falling in love or love isn’t a universal perfect good.

Conclusion

As I said, Hemingway provides no simple solution. The world these characters live in is not understanding of their struggles. Forgiveness can be limited, redemption can be conditional. The novel asks what it takes to make us choose to change. Mostly, we don’t want to or ignore the need to. The novel captures that temptation well. The Sun Also Rises also shows us good things, the landscape, nature, food, and comradery. The simple speech provides a complex narrative and hints at depth under the surface. Hemingway describes bullfighting beautifully; I feel like I had seats to the bullfight with Jake, Brett, Mike, Cohn, and Bill.

I also liked how traveling wasn’t the end-all-be-all to this series. Travel isn’t an escape to make our lives better, and it isn’t going to make you someone better than you are. It certainly does change you, and this is partly what the novel is about.

I would recommend this novel to any adult or young adult. The Sun Also Rises took me on a trip and back home again. All of these characters are looking for a code, and Jake’s journey and the ending are satisfying. It is beautiful but also broken at times.

Have you read The Sun Also Rises or any Hemingway novels? What did you think? Let me know down in the comments below!