(Read 20/03/2016 – 9/04/2016)
A movable feast is a retrospective look back on Hemingway’s own life during the 1920s in Paris. He wrote this almost poetic account of his hard times living in poverty in the city of love. The novel has no clear structure or narrative, but instead it reveals random and disjointed episodes which serve to piece his life there together like each individual piece of a jigsaw. This approach keeps the reader engrossed and means that you never get bored because almost as soon as each chapter reaches it climax, it is over.
Because each chapter reveals a different episode or snippet from his life, they vary greatly in their emotional reach. Most chapters are witty and often make the reader chuckle to himself, but others have the ability to convey great sadness and difficulty, and can leave the reader in a state of dismay. That means that almost every brief chapter is a game of Russian roulette where there are no losers. Hemingway has always had the reputation of having been a grumpy, drunk and difficult man in real life and some of the chapters in this book completely back this up. He almost takes great pride at annoying and irritating specific friends or acquaintances, even in times where they are in great distress. But more interestingly, what emerges in some chapters is a man who is able to bestow great love and affection on those he really cares about. It is hard not to admire how he talks about his wife and how he uses what little money he has to take her on holidays, or how he supports and offers advice to the friends he cares about.
One of the main highlights of the book for me personally is Hemingway’s own unique writing style. He manages to craft really nice flowing sentences which feature beautiful descriptions. However, unlike other writers who write in with such descriptive language, his is never difficult to read, the reader will never find any of the novel hard-going or tiring. I personally find authors who can write well but can also write in a fashion whereby the reader can read huge sways in one sitting among my favorites and most engrossing. I also find his writing quite brave in this short memoirs, because he wrote this much later in his life, which could have allowed him to tailor and alter the stories to make him look admirable. However, he writes the stories quite honestly, often making himself look like a mean-spirited man in the process.
I would recommend this book to everyone. It is a really short novel, coming in at just over 120 pages, so it can be finished in a short length of time. Also, because the chapters are so short and different, the novel can be read and then left for long lengths of time without losing your overall place in the book. Almost every chapter conveys a completely different emotion and sense of time and place, which means the reader will never be left bored or uninterested.