For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway

FWTBT cover

“Today is the only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

What an amazing thought by Hemmingway!

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway is a fantastic read. In fact, it is the first book I have awarded five stars on Goodreads (FYI: there’s a link to my Goodreads account somewhere on this website).

I particularly enjoyed the story as it takes place during the Spanish Civil War – an event I previously knew nothing about. It does take a wee while to adjust to Hemmingway’s style of narrative, as he flits between perspectives, often in the same paragraph, and uses punctuation sparingly. However, once you get used to his style, For Whom the Bell Tolls is incredibly easy to read. There are also many instances where the protagonist, Robert Jordan, talks to/argues with himself, and Hemmingway writes these dialogues as single chunks of prose. As this is the first novel by Hemmingway I have read, I can’t tell you yet whether the style is characteristic of his work in general or just of For Whom the Bell Tolls. As soon as I have read another of his novels, I will let you know.

The story is set in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil War and tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American citizen and former professor of Spanish, who is fighting with a group of left-wing guerrilla fighters against General Franco and his military dictatorship. Jordan arrives on the scene tasked with blowing up a key, strategic bridge in order to facilitate a planned offensive by the Russian-backed “Republic”. The story also includes a fabulous array of characters, including the shifty, former cell leader, Pablo, the matriach, Pilar, and Jordan’s beautiful but emotionally and physically – scarred lover, Maria.

I won’t give any more of the story away, as the novel is definitely worth reading and I wouldn’t want to spoil the enjoyment for anybody. The story was also adapted for the big screen in 1943, starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. One of these days I will watch the movie; however, I did watch the trailer on Apple TV on the weekend and it looks very dated. Still, mustn’t pre-judge!

I am now reading E.M.Forster’s A Passage to India. So far, so good!

UPDATE ON MY NOVEL:

I am now well underway with my second draft and, taking the suggestions from the editor into account, it is already sounding much better. I aim to have my second draft finished by the autumn. Perhaps by this time next year I’ll have something to show you all. Fingers crossed!

The Outs by Adam Goldman

The Outs

I stumbled across this little gem of a miniseries last week while I was browsing movie recommendations online. Tired of watching the same old repeats and advertisement-rich dross that airs on ‘normal’ TV, I thought I’d try my luck with some independent stuff.  There certainly is a lot of crap to sift through on YouTube! However, thankfully, I found The Outs.

The Outs is directed by, and stars, Adam Goldman. Wikipedia describes The Outs as “a 2012 miniseries with seven episodes, produced exclusively for Internet distribution.” And that’s essentially what it is. The Outs was entirely crowd-funded, and by the end of two campaigns Goldman had received enough money to make an end-of-series special as well. In 2013 The Outs was nominated in seven categories at the Indie Soap Awards.

The story is set in New York City and centres around Mitch, his best friend, Oona, and his ex-boyfriend, Jack. Over the course of six twenty-minute(ish) episodes, plus one special, Goldman chronicles the demise of Mitch and Jack’s relationship in a way that is both funny and touching.

Unlike many of the independent, gay-themed short movies/series that are out there in cyberspace, The Outs, has a great script, a quality cast, and a professionally produced feel. Plus, Jack’s new boyfriend, Paul (played by Tommy Heleringer) is pretty hot.

I’d highly recommend The Outs. FYI, on IMDb it rated 8.2/10.

You can watch The Outs on YouTube or here

Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd

sarum

Sarum is the third novel by Edward Rutherfurd I have read and, just like his other books London and Russka, it is pretty epic – 1,344 pages in total!

Rutherfurd has certainly stamped his own unique mark on the genre of historical fiction: each of his novels centres on a place rather than a person, covers at least a thousand years of history and is accompanied by an assortment of maps and a detailed genealogy of its characters. With each book covering many centuries, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of characters.

Sarum starts in 7,500BC with the story of Hwll and Akun, who leave the icy wastelands in the North and journey down the east coast of Britain and settle on the Salisbury Plains, and finishes some nine millennia later, having covered the Saxon, Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, the Reformation, the English Civil War, the rise of the British Empire and the loss of the American colonies, and much more.

I love the way Rutherfurd weaves fact with fiction to both entertain and educate his readers – even though his stories are made up, they include an array of famous people and events. What is more, although his novels are designed to be read from beginning to end (i.e. in chronological order), each chapter is essentially a self-contained short story and could easily be read in isolation or skipped entirely. I would recommend Sarum to anybody who has an interest in history but who doesn’t mind a bit of artistic licence.

I have amassed a small fortune in gems of ‘useless’ information through reading Rutherfurd’s novels. Here’s one from his novel London:

Where does the phrase ‘to tally up’ come from?

In the Middles Ages–I think. You’ll need to read London and check. It was a long time ago, in any case–when landowners came to Westminster to pay their taxes to the Crown the amount they were required to pay (their tax return, for all intents and purposes) was recorded on a ‘tally’ stick using a series of notches–each notch would represent a certain amount of money. The tally stick was then split from top to bottom, with the tax official keeping one half and the landowner taking the other away. When the sticks were placed together again–i.e. when it was time for the landowner to cough up the money–the notches were supposed to line up. If they did, the accounts were said to tally up.

UPDATE ON MY NOVEL:

So… I got the first draft back from the editor! She has given me lots of constructive feedback and has told me the areas I need to work on. She says the basic structure of my story is there but needs to be expanded, and the characters developed. I’m now super motivated to write my second draft. Watch this space!