A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I never cared much for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but I loved Flappers and Philosophers. I never cared much for Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, but I loved A Moveable Feast. How fitting it is to have read these two authors almost back to back this summer, as Hemingway’s book enlightens some of Fitzgerald’s lifestyle to us readers. Only three years separated them, Hemingway being the youngest, and in my opinion Fitzgerald’s short stories are incomparable to almost anyone else’s from the Western world. But, Hemingway writes with a simpleness which creates a false illusion that it’s easy. As though anyone could write a memoir of what it was like to be young and struggling and living in Paris in the 1920’s.
Hemingway shares his tips on writing: “When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
He speaks of  what he read then, which always makes me want to read those very same books myself: “I started with Turgenev and took the two volumes of A Sportsman’s Sketches and early book of D.H. Lawrence, I think it was Sons and Lovers, and Sylvia told me to take more books if I wanted. I chose the Constance Garnett edition of War and Peace, and The Gambler and Other Stories by Dostoevsky.”
I loved the opening of “A False Spring” which commented more on people than season, “When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
Here’s the insight on F. Scott Fitzgerald which spoke volumes to me about skill: “His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.”
But the saddest part of all is how he wrote of the infiltration of the rich, which led to such woundedness in his marriage: “Before these rich had come we had already been infiltrated by another rich using the oldest trick there is. It is that an unmarried young woman becomes the temporary best friend of another young woman who is married, goes to live with the husband and wife and then unknowingly, innocently and unrelentingly sets out to marry the husband. When the husband is a  writer and doing difficult work so that he is occupied much of the time and is not a good companion or partner to his wife for a big part of the day, the arrangement has advantages until you know how it works out. The husband has two attractive girls around when he has finished work. One is new and strange and if he has bad luck he gets to love them both.”

Hemingway had a very different life, and made very different choices, than I have. Perhaps this is precisely one of the reasons we love to read: the author’s perspective sheds new light on our own. Our own lives are confirmed, or regretted, or stretched. Yet how wonderful it would have been to live in Paris, to have known the 20’s, and even Hemingway himself.

But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong, nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.

I read this book with Tracey of A Book Sanctuary. Others have said they’d like to join in; when I find their posts I’ll link to them here. This is also a wonderful read for Tamara and Bookbath’s Paris in July II Challenge. Read Audrey’s thoughts at Books as Food here.

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21 thoughts on “A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

  1. Wonderful review, Bellezza! Hemingway is one of my favourite writers and 'A Moveable Feast' is one of my favourite books! Glad to know that you enjoyed it so much 🙂 I loved the way you have contrasted Hemingway with Fitzgerald. I also loved the passage that you have quoted, where Hemingway has described Fitzgerald's talent – so beautiful! I didn't know that Fitzgerald's short stories were so good. I will try reading them some time. I also liked very much your observation – "But, Hemingway writes with a simpleness which creates a false illusion that it's easy." 🙂 Thanks for this wonderful review!

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  2. Lovely review Bellezza:) It really is an evocative book, isn't it? I'm sure things weren't as rosy as Hemingway portrayed, life must have been quite difficult, yet there's a nostalgia and yearning in his words that shows how much his time in Paris affected him. Have you seen Midnight in Paris yet? It's not out in London until the end of the year but I can't wait to see it.

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  3. Thank you so much for the chance to read this book with you! I've never been much interested in Hemingway, but then there's Paris…and I think we were enchanted by many of the same paragraphs. I loved reading it!

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  4. I have been thinking about reading this since I read The Paris Wife. I am not a lover of Hemingway, but I think I might be interested in his version of what happened during his time in Paris. I think from the paragraph you chose, he might have given some of his bad behavior a pass, but I think that the way someone views their own life is fascinating. Thanks for your review!

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  5. Bellezza – I LOVE the way you have chosen to review this book – really thoughtful and insightful and you have highlightd the beauty in Hemingway's writing. I can identify with the passages you have quoted – I was fascinated with his work routine, how he always made sure he had ideas left for the next day and his various forms of self discipline – although his self discipline obviously didn't extend to every area of his life! And thank you for contrasting Hemingway with Fitzgerald, I know little also of Fitzgerald, I was intrigued with The Great Gatsby but I didn't love it – so more to discover of both writers for me.It was a joy to read this alongside you, and thank you so much for your generosity in suggesting it.On to Paris in July – I look forward to seeing what you choose to read for that.Hope you are enjoying your summer holiday 0:)

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  6. Thanks for this detailed review. I'm in line for hold of a copy at the public library, and really looking forward to reading it. But, for some reasons, Tender Is The Night is really dragging me down. Unlike you, I really like The Great Gatsby… that's why I turned to TITN. And I've shifted to another book now, but will try to slowly finish the Fitzgerald. Hope A Moveable Feast will break the TITN drag.

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  7. I never cared much for The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises, either! Maybe I'll enjoy this one? I downloaded a sample for my iPad, but haven't had a chance to give it a look. Maybe on our flight to Oregon next week…

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  8. Vishy, wasn't that a wonderful paragraph comparing talent to the dust on a butterfly's wings? So fragile, so easy to be destroyed. One of the things that I've always admired about Hemingway is his clear, simple, straightforward writing style.Sakura, I really want to see Midnight in Paris; thanks for reminding me! There are so many good things out about Paris right now, films and books. I just bought David McCulloughs Americans In Paris book. Perfect timing for the Paris In July II Challenge.Audrey, I'm so glad you joined in reading it with us! I so value your thoughts and opinion, and it seems that you, Tracey and I had our own small book club with this novel! I know you and I did connect on many of the same passages, just as Tracey and I did. Wonderful to share with you both!

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  9. Col, The Paris Wife! That's another one I want to read after this novel of Hemingway's! I didn't mean to convey, in the paragraph I chose, that Hemingway 'gave himself a pass' with his unfaithfulness to Hadley. In fact, there's quite a moving paragraph in which he describes returning to her from visiting his lover in Paris and when he sees her on the train platform he wishes with all his heart she was the only one he'd ever loved (physcially, too, is my distinct impression). So sad. I don't even know what happened to them, except some vague idea that they divorced, he remarried, and he continued to 'womanize'.

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  10. Tracey, I'm so glad that you inspired me to read this novel, that we had the change to read it together! It's an important piece in my 'cultural literacy' as I know far too little about American authors. I think I've read, or studied, more Russian than anything else!Anyway, it was so interesting to me how we highlighted similar paragraphs in our readings and reviews. I loved how you put that passage on the top of your post about where the title came from, and at the end (or thereabouts) the passage where he sees Hadley on the train platform and is filled with regret. Hugely moving to me!I hope we have a chance to read more books together, perhaps for Paris in July II?! xo

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  11. C. B. James, trust you to have already read it! I only go back and reread those novels which are especially moving to me, so I'm not sure how you feel about rereading this one.Parrish, it's very short (only 117 pages on my Nook). Hopefully you can find it at your library or something so you don't have to outlay the cost. Glad I helped inspire you to pick it up!

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  12. Arti, I've not read Tender Is The Night, but after enjoying Flappers and Philosophers so much I'm ready to try more F. Scott Fitzgerald. A Moveable Feast is short, and it's almost written in short story form as well, so you don't have to read it in one continuous go. It's easy to read a few 'chapters', go on to something else, and pick it up again which is what I did with it and Hijuelos' book. (Wow, two memoirs for me this Summer! That's something I almost never do!) Let me know how you like it when your library copy comes in.Les, how fun that you can just download things on your iPad (love those little gadgets!:) Maybe you'd prefer Flappers and Philosophers as the stories are quite powerful and I think you can get it for free? I did anyway, on my Nook, as the publisher's copyright has gone extinct. Or whatever it does. Anyway, this novel of Hemingway's is a good piece to tuck under one's belt, not only for the way he describes his live, but for the information he gives us about his contemporaries in writing. Really famous poets and writers such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and even a reference to the author of Out of Africa (Isak Dineson/Karen Blixen). I hope you have a lovely time in Oregon! You are takiing some wonderful trips this sommer!

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  13. I'd wanted to join you but still haven't got the book yet. I'll definitely come back to your review again after I've read it. And, Bellezza, you must see the movie Midnight In Paris, if you haven't done so. I'm sure you'll really enjoy it after reading A Moveable Feast.

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  14. Great suggestion to read this for Paris in July – I als read this last year for the Challenge and it soon became one of my favorite books of all time. I loved, loved, loved this book. Broke my heart.

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  15. I'd love to read more of each of these authors' work. I've only read The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and Sea so I have no real way to compare the two authors.

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  16. I didn't get to re-read this one–as I was afraid I would not–but reading your review sure takes me back. I fell in love with this one as a college student and I have a feeling I'd fall in love with it all over again.

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  17. Arti, I'm just dying to see Midnight in Paris. I'll come visit you as soon as I do (should be this week!)Coffee and a Book Chick, it is heart-breaking in a subtle way. I felt so bad for the Fitzgeralds, and also Hemingway's own marriage. I can see why you love it, though, it's a very tender and personal work. Kathleen, if we only read what was assigned to us in high school we'd be sorry readers! Neither of the famous books I read in high school by Fitzgerald or Hemingway moved me. I don't know if that's because I was too young, or my teacher too poor, but I can't help but wonder if they aren't better read as adults.Andi, what? You didn't have time? 🙂 Can hardly imagine, with a young child…now college seems a better period of time to be reading this great works.

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  18. I am so thankful that you wrote about this book. I checked it out from the library and have been enjoying it. It is a great inspiration to me and I will just have to break down and purchase my own copy so I can write my thoughts in all the margins. Thanks for all your "different" types of reading material!!!

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  19. Danielle Says Hello, I can't tell you how your comment pleases me. Thanks for taking the time to read the post, but then to come back and comment on how much you enjoy this book. I'm so glad that you like my eclectic (all over the place?) taste in books! Just when one thinks one ought to have a niche…at least my niche is literature, right?

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