Book Review: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

So in the past few days, I finished this book and it was really a delightful escape to the Paris of many years past. A Moveable Feast was published posthumously and is a chronicle of Hemingway’s time in Paris after the First World War with his wife Hadley and the people they encountered during their adventures. The last section is devoted to F. Scott Fitzgerald and their friendship. Despite the title, there is not much feasting going on but the book contains beautiful and melancholic descriptions of Paris. I choose this book because it came highly recommended from several expatriate sites when I was looking for books about France. As it was written about life in the twenties, I’m not sure how relevant it will be for my journey to France but I really did enjoy the book. This is yet another one of my secondhand reads which I love but please, please, please go buy something full price from your local bookstore! I love saving money on books but if you can spend it, your local bookstore could really use the support with the lack of walk-in traffic these days. I know that my favorite southern California bookstore was really struggling and they ended up asking people for business which really helped! But don’t let your local bookstore get to that point please! Bookstores are a super important part of the community so please support them! Now back to Hemingway!

I have never read any of Hemingway’s work but I was aware of his very “macho” reputation and propensity for being called Big Papa. Coming into this book with those assumptions, I was absolutely floored by the tenderness and melancholy that I found in this book. Not only was Hemingway emotive in the extreme, he also recognized his own foibles and didn’t shield them from the view of the reader. I really enjoyed just reading the little vignettes about his various experiences in Paris. In other parts of the novel, he was coarse and rude and terrible but overall, he wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps because he was in Paris during a period of relative peace and was yet building up his reputation as an author, he was more free to write about his entire experience and emotions. Hemingway’s last view chapters are dedicated to his relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald and it’s clear that Hemingway cared both a great deal for F. Scott while vehemently hating Zelda Fitzgerald. Overall, I enjoyed the book because it was very refreshing and I felt that I got to experience Paris as Hemingway did. However, as any author, Hemingway takes liberties with the personalities involved, twisting them to suit the story. I would just caution the reader to not judge all the persons presented based on Hemingway’s account of them. I would recommend this book, especially to people who read a little before bed. The chapters are more like self-contained stories and are read quickly. If you’re looking for a little literature at night, this is an excellent place to start!

Book Review: When in French

I read this book as part of a series of books that I’m reading at the moment on American expatriates who lived or currently live in France. I’m anticipating moving to France in a year or so and am currently trying to learn French as well as learn all that I can about the experiences of Americans in France. When I started to research the American expat experience, I turned to several well-known travel bloggers and collected book recommendations about it.

While Collins’ book is not actually about living in France, it details her journey to learn French, the primary language of her husband. The book itself is more of a meditation on language than it is a memoir. Collins delves into the intricacies of languages around the world, but also spends a large portion of the book reflecting on how language colors her own experience. By the end of the book, she finally feels empowered in her communication with her husband and is ready to start the new chapter of her life in Europe.

I would say that this book was good but the linguistic element did lose me at certain points. It’s rare that I put a book down once I begin and I found myself doing this multiple times while reading this book because I felt that I was not comprehending the content and that I needed a break. I found it to be more of a linguistic exploration rather than a memoir and would encourage those particularly interested in the history and development of language to read this. Because Collins lived in Switzerland rather than France, I felt that her living experience was not as relevant to my research. However, I really appreciated the time that she took to reflect upon the intricacies of the French language and will continue to reference her experience as I continue to learn the language myself.