Book Review: The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway

The narrative perspective of limited omniscience in the third person is adopted in this work. Through succinct dialogue, implicit narration, exquisite psychological description, ellipsis and repetition and other artistic means, the image of Wilson as a tough guy who is calm, sophisticated, assertive and confident has been successfully shaped. It expresses the theme that the meaning of life lies in the courage to defy death and fight bravely. The novel revolves around two hunting trips in Africa by American couple Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret with professional hunter Wilson. On the first day of hunting, the timid Macomber was scared out of his wits by the injured lion. For this, he was viciously mocked by his wife and despised by Wilson. That night, his wife went into Wilson’s tent. Macomber was devastated and in extreme pain. The next day, out of his usual way, he suddenly broke free from his long-held fear and charged at a wounded bison. At that very moment, Margaret shot Macomber in the back, ending his young life.

It can be said that only those brave people who face the tragedy of fate are the real tough men; those who face the pressure of fate and maintain human dignity, courage, and elegant demeanor are the real heroes in modern life. On the contrary, people who are trapped in the modern net of material pleasures and desires often lose the courage to face life and become the miserable wretches that everyone is ashamed of. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is clearly a profound and rich account of this transformation. In Hemingway’s case, the color of modern life is clearly not what human life needs, and people who indulge in it are trapped in it. On the contrary, only with human dignity, facing the tragedy and death of life, can one gain some kind of freedom and feel real happiness. Macomber has endured death, pain, and absurdity throughout his life, but his defiance and his courage in trying to escape the grip of nihilistic forces are enough to make him a hero.

Death is the greatest nothingness and the power to get rid of nothingness. Macomber’s death in nothingness and his rebirth in death are spiritual triumphs. The significance and value of Hemingway’s creation lies in that people living in such a nihilistic life should seriously consider their own living environment through death, pain, and absurdity and establish a new way of existence to challenge and overcome nihilism. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a third-person narrative. Therefore, the narrator can travel flexibly and freely among the narrated objects, and has a relatively broad narrative space. He can stay outside the characters for external observation, or sneak into the characters’ interior for psychological perspective. In the novel, Macomber, his wife Margaret, and professional hunter Wilson, these three main characters’ image creation and story suspense setting are realized by the different functions of the third person narration.

It is worth mentioning that the novel also occasionally inserts the second person, which refers to the narrative receiver, namely the reader, as “you”, showing a strong emotional tendency, which greatly reduces the distance between the narrative receiver and the narrator and enables the reader to participate in the story. “The Short And Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a masterpiece of skill. The author’s own subjective intentions are completely submerged in the plot. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t lash out, the novel is exactly like a caricature with a touch of humor in it. Hemingway portrays the characters without any generalization or ambiguity. His implicit and concise style is usually simple on the surface, but with careful consideration, the profound meaning can be understood.

-Coreen C.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Book Review: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March: One Book, One Chicago Fall 2011 ...

The Adventures of Augie March tells the story of Augie’s life from 1920s to 1940s. Augie worked as a newspaper boy, a handyman in the army, a sailor in the merchant ship, went to Mexico to seek opportunities. Even as a thief in the drifting years he threw himself into a new line of work and suffered all kinds of indecent treatment. As Augie grows into adulthood, he discovers that society is a tangled web of absurdities from ideals to reality. He felt that he was in a vaguely hostile world full of constraints surrounded by people who wanted to influence and change him, all trying to shape Augie into the person they wanted him to be. Along with his girlfriend Thea, Augie sets off on a journey to Mexico, but the failure of hawk training, physical damage, and his girlfriend’s betrayal make his dream come to nothing. The trip to Mexico not only left Augie severely injured physically, but also plunged his spirit into a pain that could not be healed. Emotionally, Augie becomes a loner, living in a world of opposition and disappointment. All this makes him seem like a marginal man who has been randomly thrown into the world, abandoned and helpless. The world was nothing to him now.

The Adventures of Augie March shows the mottled spirit and soul of modern Americans, vividly presenting the American social condition. In the absurd society, everything is quite different from Augie’s wish — an individual person is ignored, people’s desire is suppressed, and people’s life is devalued. But Augie refused to be controlled and refused to change. So again and again he had to confront the powerful reality of escape and face this meaningless world alone. Life is an endless process of discovery until it reaches death. As long as a person’s life does not come to an end, the accumulation of its essence will not be completed, the spiritual journey will not end, and the process of free choice will continue. Augie’s double journey, both physical and spiritual, as well as his pursuit of meaning of life all emphasize the free choice of human beings. This reflects the essence of existentialist philosophy: man is free in this world, and so is his choice of action. This freedom gives one the right to choose and act in the face of the absurd world. Therefore, people should realize the importance of free choice, dare to make free choice, and create their own meaning of existence through actions.

-Coreen C.

Dessert First by Dean Gloster

The book Dessert First by Dean Gloster can be summed up in one word: beautiful. The story is about a teenage girl, Kat, who is struggling to hold everything together after her little brother Beep relapses with leukemia. With her father being distant and constantly at work, her mother uptight due to her anxiety, and her older sister’s rude remarks, Kat turns to online friends for support. And between all of this, she struggles to complete homework assignments and with her feelings towards her old best friend, who she feels betrayed by.

This book is truly something special which would make me laugh aloud, yet also induce tears. With her witty and sarcastic sense of humor and the sadness that plagues her, Kat seemed to spring out of the pages as a real person. The book very much regarded her journey, through her pain and the feelings that came with it–confusion, anger, sadness, hope, and love.

Eventually, Kat was able to find the silver lining. And as her brother Beep had said to her “Always eat dessert first”, as in to live life to the fullest, and to remember that even after the worst of times, life can be good again.

-Aisha E. 

Dessert First by Dean Glosteris available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham: Very Good Hardcover (1942) |  Randall's Books

“Of Human Bondage” aims to show the reader that once one is born, one has to go through all kinds of hardships — especially in youth — and is bound by all kinds of constraints of life, such as family, religion, school, society, love (including sex), money and so on. The novel shows the dark side of a terrifying real world. All kinds of characters in the picture, driven by the god of fate, drift in the endless dark abyss. The tone of the novel is low and the conclusion is that life has no meaning and death has no significance. Nevertheless, “Of Human Bondage” is positive in its objective effect, for Philip’s personal experience has a considerable degree of social typification.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, western capitalist society fell into a comprehensive crisis in politics, economy, culture and other aspects; market depression, social unrest and war are all at hand. Traditional religion, morality, culture and philosophy are showing the tendency of disintegration. In Britain, the false optimism of the Victorian era is long gone, and this novel presents a bleak picture of the real world full of horror. It is a scene in which many characters drift in the endless dark abyss, at the mercy of the gods of fate, neither knowing why nor whither they are to be cast.

The difference between Philip and these characters was that he still wanted to fight against fate, that he tried to throw off his chains. Here, in addition to the shackles he fought against, he also represented a large number of young people who were unwilling to go along with the tide and unable to join in the social reform movement. Although the result of his struggle is only a personal enlightenment, the enlightenment itself is also an indictment and a denial of the society, or at least an expression of a yearning for real humanity and a perfect life. In this sense, “Of Human Bondage” is not only realistic, but also makes a profound criticism of society and life from a special angle.

Philip Galli was a thoughtful, personable young man, crippled by congenital disabilities, solitary, sensitive, and obstinate. His parents died and he spent his childhood in a cold and strange environment. After going to boarding school, he was blighted by an unreasonable educational system. But when he stepped into the society, he was brutally beaten in love. The rough road of his life was full of thorns, and every step he took was tormented by pain and left a wound in his body and heart that could not be healed. All the sufferings in the world are caused by this broken-hearted society. In the novel, the protagonist Philip finally realized the truth of life, in fact, is the author’s own view of life and society after the conclusion: life is meaningless, and can not be changed into another.

It is obvious that this is why Maugham chose “Of Human Bondage” as the title of his novel. Artistically, “Of Human Bondage” fully embodies Maugham’s writing style. First of all, there is a very moving story in the novel. Although the protagonist’s experience has many twists and turns, it is written in a concentrated way without too many clues. Secondly, there is no abstract psychological description in the novel, but all descriptions are very specific. The motivations of the characters are expressed through specific behaviors, thus having a strong sensory effect. Finally, the novel’s style is lucid and unpretentious. The language of his novels aims at fluency, clarity, conciseness and harmony, so he uses colloquial language in both narrative and dialogue, which is refreshing and pleasing to the eye.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

tuesdaysmorrie_mitchalbomI really needed another book to read so I asked my mom if there was a book in her library that I could read. She gave me a book called Tuesdays with Morrie and told me that it’s about life lessons and stuff like that. It really didn’t sound interesting but I decided to give it a shot. It was so worth it. Tuesdays with Morrie, is more of a life lesson book for sure, but it is heart warming. Typically I like read the adventure/dystopian type novel so this story was somewhat out of my comfort level. So if you don’t mind reading a slower book then you should check out this book.

Mitch Albom tells about his own personal, strong relationship between himself and his favorite college professor. After leaving college, 16 years later, Mitch gets a new job as a journalist for the Detroit newspaper. It is a well- paid job but empty and he begins to feel depressed. After meeting with his mentor to catch up, Mitch decides to have Morrie mentor him once again. They met up every Tuesday(hence the name).

Through their time together you grow to love old Morrie and take in his lessons too. I didn’t understand all of them because some were directed towards adults but I definitely learned a good deal of them. One is “Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…Which side win? Love wins. Love always wins”  There are so many more meaningful quotes and lessons sprinkled throughout this book.

I really hope you check this book out because it is one of my favorites!

-Erika T.

Tuesdays with Morrie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.