Jazz Age January 2014: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Posted January 17, 2014 by LeahAdmin in Blogging & Challenges, Reviews / 18 Comments

Book Review: A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Published by Scribner on 1926
Pages: 236
Genres: Classics, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

A Moveable Feast is the first Hemingway book I’ve read since my high school English class reading of A Farewell to Arms, and although I enjoyed it, I’m not sure it was the best place to start reading his work.

Unfinished and published posthumously, A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his time spent in Paris with his fist wife Hadley in the early 1920s. Also included in this “restored edition” are many Paris sketches that I think weren’t meant to be in the book but that provide interesting insights into the author’s life.

On the one hand, I found reading about vibrant jazz age Paris and its players to be fascinating. Hemingway belonged to a community of truly luminous artistic figures including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, and Ford Maddox Ford. It was really interesting to read about Hemingway’s relationships with them — especially since many of them are characterized rather irreverently!

On the downside, this book was kind of hard to follow. I don’t know if it’s because it was unfinished or because it’s Hemingway’s writing style to jump around and make references to things he hasn’t explained, or something else. If I recall correctly, the book’s introduction (or was it the foreward?) mentions that Hemingway’s alcoholism had a horrible effect on his memory. He probably didn’t remember his time in Paris all that well, and his alcoholism may have also impacted his writing ability.

My understanding of this book was really helped by my earlier reading of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This historical novel covers a very similar time-span to A Moveable Feast, and it was interesting to see how the stories paralleled each other. On a few occasions that Hemingway would mention something out of the blue, like coming back from Toronto after Bumby’s birth without ever having mentioned that they went to Toronto in the first place, I would have been confused if I hadn’t read McLain’s novel. It helped clarify the facts where Hemingway is vague.

On the whole, I enjoyed A Moveable Feast and thought it was a good way to start my Jazz Age January reading! Although I don’t think this was a good entry point into Hemingway’s writing, I’m glad I read it. What should I read next to become better acquainted with his work?

jazzage

  • This was one of the books I was planning on reading for Jazz Age January. I find with Hemingway i either love or hate his books. I am hesitant about this one since it was unfinished, but the real life aspects of it intrigue me.

  • Hemingway is a bit of an acquired taste… I read A Farewell to Arms and his short story Hills like White Elephants. I’m not too keen on his writing style personally but I’ve been meaning to read A Moveable Feast.

  • I must admit that though I am curious in a way about this book I would probably not pick it up. I have been hearing a lot about his not so easy writing style and it does not really pull me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • I heard this is a really important work for writers to read – but why? is it very well written? Does it impart craft lessons? I feel like teachers have recommended it to me. I picked it up last summer and then put it down again.
    I haven’t read any Hemingway save Farewell to Arms. His short, declarative sentences aren’t really my style. But I was still interested to read your review of this one!

    • I have no idea why! But then again, I’m not a writer 😛

  • I feel like a crappy bookworm for saying this, but Hemingway has never really done it for me. I remember reading The Sun Also Rises in high school one summer and all I retained from it were some bull fights and wine skins. Reading The Paris Wife made me slightly more compassionate to Hemingway’s tortured artist-ness, but mostly just made me think he was a dick. Meh. Hemingway.

    • That totally does not make you a crappy bookworm! Everyone has different tastes! (And agreed, Hemingway was a dick.)

  • Never that into Hemingway either, the only one I really liked was The Old Man and the Sea.

    • Understandable. Maybe I’ll try that one.

  • Megan @ The Whynott Blog

    I read A Farewell to Arms twice in a row in high school and have not since read anymore Hemingway. I intend to though! By the looks of the comments, The Sun Also Rises might be my next stop.

    If you liked reading about that group in Paris, I highly recommend Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s like The Paris Wife, but about the Fitzgeralds instead of the Hemingways. I loved it!

    • I think The Sun Also Rises will by my next Hemingway, too. Z sounds really good; I might read it after the Zelda biography I’m reading now.