The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
If my book club hadn't just read The Paris Wife, we wouldn't have selected this book and I wouldn't have finished it either.
The basic gist of the book is of a group of friends who travel from Paris, France to Pamplona, Spain for the festival of San Fermin and the bull fights.
The bigger picture is that of a group of people who are mostly residing in Paris as expatriates (from the US and Great Britain) and they travel to Pamplona. They are not necessarily all friends. There is one woman who is married and trying to get divorced. Her current fiance as well as an ex-lover/boyfriend (Hemingway's character) are on the trip. Also there is a friend of the narrator (Hemingway) who lives in the US. Another man tags along much to the chagrin of everyone else. He is engaged to another woman but is hopelessly in love with the woman in the story. He had a brief fling with her and has convinced himself that she must love him back as he loves her.
The complex relationships made this a rather difficult book to read because I just wanted to slap everyone for behaving badly and stupidly. Also, they are drunk almost the entire book which does not help their behavior.
There is a brief period in the beginning of the trip when Hemingway's character and his friend from the US go off fishing in the lower Pyrennes. The descriptiveness of this part of the book was very enjoyable to read.
Once all the characters gather in Pamplona, the relationships and emotions and drunken behavior cloud the rest of the story. The descriptions of the bulls, the corredo and the fights themselves are very nice to read. Hemingway definitely excels in writing about action and the outdoors. He is not very good in describing people or writing dialogue or emotions. I found much of the dialogue unrealistic. Perhaps the ex-pats of the time, a.k.a. the lost generation, really did speak in a forced "hipster/beat" fashion but it didn't feel real to me.
During The Paris Wife, this particular trip was described and it actually seemed much worse than the portrayal in The Sun Also Rises. Perhaps the difference was perspective. The Paris Wife was a novel written in his wife's voice based on her writings and correspondence. The Sun Also Rises was written from his perspective. Hemingway wrote the novel just after they took this trip and the biggest change he made was that he left his wife out of the book. There is one particular situation that happened to his wife but he had it happen to the other woman on the trip instead. Even though he dedicated the book to his wife and son, the fact that she was left out of the book must have been a huge slap in the face for her.
If you are a huge fan of Hemingway, you will probably read this book. It is definitely not his finest work but then it is his first novel so that may also have something to do with it.