There are 226 editions of THE SUN ALSO RISES on Goodreads, do we need another? In this case, yes. The Hemingway Library Edition feels like buying one of those double-pack DVD collections loaded with bonus features. If you are already a fan of this book or want more insight into its creation or the Hemmingway legend, then this is a great version to pick up.
As for the book itself: meh. I loved OLD MAN AND THE SEA, but just couldn’t bring myself to appreciate SUN ALSO RISES on nearly the same level. I think the former is a better representation of Hemmingway’s spare prose, while the latter is bereft of that emotional tug. At many times throughout, I found my mind straying from the content, mainly due to Hemmingway’s indulgent use of dialogue. The theme of the story held a unique interest, but the telling of it dragged in its redundancies.
However, this is a classic for a reason and clearly carries with it a base of fans. This book is for those appreciative people. The two introductions by Hemmingway family members were interesting, but the end-sections are what shine the most. Here is where you’ll find nearly 100 pages of content, including: an essay on bull fighting in the 20s, pieces of early revisions (I wish all books had this; it’s like a director’s commentary almost); the discarded first chapters; and the other possible book titles (such as RIVER TO THE SEA or TWO LIE TOGETHER). There are also about five pictures, including one of Hemmingway’s ticket stub for the bull fights in Pamplona.
Stand-alone I would rate this book lower, but I’m a proponent of these “special features”, even in modernly-released books. When I read a book I love, I want to know more about its inception and formulation. In this case, I’m giving it an extra star because the features were fascinating though the book itself was not.
Thanks to Scribner for providing me with an electronic copy of this book to review.