Across The River and Into The Trees by Hemingway

The Gran Maestro was gone and the Colonel looked at the girl and then at the Grand Canal outside the window, and he saw the magic spots and changes of light that were even here, in the end of the bar, which had now by skillful handling been made into a dining room, and he said, “Did I tell you, Daughter, that I love you?”

“You haven’t told me for quite a long time. But I love you.”

“What happens to people that love each other?”
“I suppose they have whatever they have, and they are more fortunate than others. Then one of them gets the emptiness forever.”
Across The River and Into The Trees is a painfully beautiful book. If you think, as I once did, that Hemingway is only about guns and war, shooting and bullfighting, drinking and women, think again.
This novel is about Colonel Richard Cantwell, aged 50, with a heart which has been given to more than his 19 year old Italian lover, Renata. His heart has been wounded by an earlier marriage, by lost battalions in WWII, and by coronary disease which causes him to swallow two tablets with gin more frequently than can possibly be good for him. But it is comforted and stirred by his love for Renata.

We are only allowed a glimpse into the life he has with Renata in Venice, a life which appears to be available to them only on the weekends, only occasionally, and for that is all the more treasured. We live with them for the briefest 24 hours, as Richard waits for her at the Gritti hotel after duck shooting. She comes to him, in all her youth and beauty, and we read of every exquisite detail with breathtaking slowness.

This has to be my favorite Hemingway book so far, one I will look for in hardcover to add to my collection. Who can write like this man? Who can tell of a fifty year old hardened Colonel who loves an Italian girl as his “one and best and only true love” more poignantly than Hemingway?
No one.

23 thoughts on “Across The River and Into The Trees by Hemingway

  1. This one sounds right up my alley. Hemingway can be a beautiful writer. I love his short stories and I loved A Moveable Feast, and this one most certainly sounds like it's worth a try.


  2. Natalie, is is perfect for you. It will be one of my great recommendations for the Venice in February Challenge. (Can you tell I got a little overexcited and began reading for it already?) I know you and I fell for Hemingway this summer, and the romance continues with this lovely novel.


  3. Carol, I suggest you give this a try because I never appreciated Hemingway before A Moveable Feast, or this book, either. What's all that about Old Men and The Sea? For Whom The Bell Tolls? I wasn't impressed, but maybe I'll try them again now that I've fallen for this beautiful work.


  4. It's been decades since I've read anything by Hemingway. I'm sure I put A Moveable Feast on my TBR list after hearing all the glowing praise in the blogging world last year, but never got around to it. The Venice Challenge gives me the perfect nudge to read Across the River and Into the Trees. It sounds wonderful, Bellezza. You shared an amazing passage. I particularly like the final words:

    “I suppose they have whatever they have, and they are more fortunate than others. Then one of them gets the emptiness forever.”


  5. Les, that makes me really happy that you want to try him now. I loved A Moveable Feast, probably one of the contributors to the buzz abouto Hemingway this Summer, and this is even better. I marked so many pages of beautiful quotes, and meaningful passages, that if I wrote them all down my post would be far too long. But, I'm glad that you found the last bit as important as I did. (Also, this is the first time I could relate to the older Colonel almost more than the young girl…great!)


  6. Bellezza, I must read this one! I've read some Hemingway and loved it all, but this one has escaped my attention. After reading your post I realize now that it is a must read! I'm definitely looking forward to it. Sounds like such a gem! So glad you reviewed it 🙂


  7. This photo is gorgeous. And from your post, the book seems to match that image. Thanks for a sensitive review, Bellezza. And may I take this opportunity to wish you all the best in the coming New Year, and lots of good reading! Happy New Year to you and your family!


  8. Nadia, this one had escaped my attention, too, until I was putting together a list for our Venice in February challenge. So glad I found it, and got past the initial chapter of our hero in a duck shoot. Could have done without that bit of boredom, but after that? Powerful until the bitter end. I hope you do pick it up.


  9. Arti, wish I'd taken the photo of the Gritti Hotel myself. Sadly, it's stolen from an Andrew Harper (he gets the credit when you click on the picture). Anyway, I thought it fit the story quite well, and I'm glad to see you think so, too.

    A very Happy New Year to you, and many blessings for 2012. He is with us!


  10. Just picked it up today! Hoping we have some weather soon that allows me the luxury of just curling up with a book or two or three…we had flurries today and it was so beautiful and peaceful but short-lived…happy reading the last little bit of this year and all of next!


  11. Kathleen, it was a refreshing surprise. I almost put it down in the opening pages of a duck shoot, but I'm so glad I persevered. One must read at least ten pages in, don't you think?


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