For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Set during the Spanish Civil War, the story follows a group of Republicans, who are preparing to blow up a bridge. Our protagonist Robert Jordan is an American college Spanish teacher turned demolition expert, known to his companions as Inglés. These companions include the likeable, manly Pilar and her husband, the duplicitous, anti-fascist guerrilla leader Pablo, as well as an old man called Anselmo, and Maria, a young woman who Robert Jordan has a passionate relationship with, a relationship amplified by the prospect of their mission resulting in death.
Hemingway’s trademark terse writing style is in evidence throughout this moving and at times suspenseful war/love story, which despite being set over the course of 3 days, has an epic feel, due to its length (490 pages). This is on occasion a turgid text, with an excess of both dialogue and the protagonist’s internal monologue. The constant use of ‘thee’ was another source of annoyance for this reader, as was the gushy nature of Jordan and Maria’s romance.
For Whom The Bell Tolls boasts a colourful, memorable array of characters and a number of interesting themes, such as love and duty, and life and death. However, in this reader’s opinion, it is inferior to the novella The Old Man and the Sea by the same author.