Ernest Hemingway was a bit of a sour tragedy symbol himself. Most often than not, his life was reflected through his stories in ambiguous bits and pieces. Whether the frequent visits of misfortunes (multiple failed marriages and a suicidal end to his life) were catastrophic in reality, they rather positively contributed to Hemingway’s tasteful literary style.
Across the River and Into the Trees is not my favorite Hemingway, but it reminded me of the abundance of classic literatures that we should desperately get our hands on… Anyway, the story is about a fifty-year-old American colonel Richard Cantwell who falls in love with a beautiful Italian countess during WWII in Venice. Despite his worsening physical deterioration and distressed mental state, his wasted heart – and life- is revitalized by a profound love for the young (quite young, in fact) Venetian that helps him fight through the dismal days of post-war life. It’s a romance of lost love; the love-again kind of love. Love with a second chance. I feel as though if I read this book again in a few more years, I would be able to better relate and understand.
The story was a bit difficult to indulge into initially but Hemingway’s gradual development of the plot came more lucid as the story progressed. I think that’s his style. He builds it up so that it comes into a full circle at the climatic chapter. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise to come across this book after reading O’Brien’s suspenseful romance because, well, both portray unconditional yet delusional love. Although Cantwell knows that he’s spending the last days of his aged life, he never quits to make plans for the future with Renata. Similar to other Hemingway books, the underlying theme life, love, and passion and Hemingway’s yearning search for truth among these concepts are consistently present throughout the story. This isn’t a fun-pick-up-read-at-the-bookstore book, but it does yield a compelling emotional, philosophical and psychological lesson about life and death.
dee’s recommendation: 3.5/5