Book Review: Across the River and Into the Trees
by Ernest Heminway
Publishes by Scribner’s Sons, 1950
A friend from one of my book clubs encouraged me and the rest of the club to read this novel. Its one of her favorites by Ernest Hemingway. The setting is Venice, Italy, a place my friend has happily visited.
The story is from the point of view of a retired American army colonel, Richard Cantwell. It is post-World War II and the colonel is still in Europe. He has fond memories of Italy from the First World War and also knows various people there. The colonel is fifty-years-old. The story opens on the last day of his life. Of course, he doesn’t know that its the last day of his life, but then, he does have a bad heart. He senses that he doesn’t have long to live. I found his attitude toward death interesting.
Throughout the story there are long stretches of the colonel looking back at parts of his life, particularly his war life. The reminices seem very personal from the point of view of the author rather than the colonel. I’m not sure why I had that feeling, except for the manner of the rantings about the inhuman acts he had been forced to be a part of.
The colonel is also in Venice to visit a young woman he is in love with. I should say “girl” as she is only seventeen. He says she is the love of his life. There are long stretches about how beautiful she is and the depth of his love for her.
The story has a melancholy feel to it, maybe even a little depressing. The contrast between the colonel’s expressions of love and his war talk are very telling. The book was written at the end of the 1940s and, to me, it seems appropriate to that time period.
Across the River and Into the Trees was first published in serial form in Cosmopolitan magazine. This is not one of Hemingway’s most famous novels. In fact, I’ve read quite a few of his books and I hadn’t heard much about this one. It still isn’t on my favorite Hemingway list like my friend, but I’m glad I read it.
Challenges: Classic Club