I enjoy this novel quite a bit.
The novel's themes of struggling to find dignity despite a heap of emotions that would take it away from you and establishing identity through conflict and through interests/hobbies are all well developed and, for me, resonant.
I also feel that this novel is all of one piece, unlike A Farewell to Arms, and it presents a nicely tempered narrative voice. The sentimentality gets a little out of control in For Whom the Bell Tolls, though that is a great novel as well.
In Garden of Eden and in The Sun Also Rises, I think we get the most candid and the least experimental Hemingway, which is good for comparison to later works, and which makes for some good reading.
I didn't realize Hemingway was "out of favor."
Anyway, this is my favorite Hemingway piece to teach. It is a great connection to a social studies curriculum on the Lost Generation. I also think analyzing a character like Jake is really interesting . . . . so emasculated by Brett (I love the fact that Hemingway gives her a male name and a boyish haircut). I once read a really interesting interpretation of the very end of the novel (can't remember the source, unfortunately) that discussed Jake as finally being triumphant in his rejection of Brett. There was something about Jake looking at a cop who was raising his baton in a phallically triumphant way. Interesting stuff for our impotent protagonist . . .
I have liked this book for many years, but my reasons for liking it have changed. When I first read it at too young an age, I found Brett's lifestyle to be very enviable and glamorous. I believed that the way these lost characters behaved was normal adult behavior, and I couldn't wait to get older! Needless to say, I didn't really have a grasp on the text.
Since then, I've been struck by how Hemingway's characterizations are so spare, but so telling. I know Hemingway is "out of favor" with the academic community right now, but I find his way of storytelling to be courageous. It takes guts so say things more simply, with fewer words, and to trust the reader enough to connect the dots.
For me, it is Hemingway's best work.
I think it is my dark side. All the tortured souls and complicated relationships really bring out my analytic side. I love to wonder what other scars psychological scars Jake is hiding, and it is so heartbreaking that he cries over his love for Brett.
I like it just because it's interesting to read. Even though the lives of the characters are mostly...disappointing, you still feel like you'd want to be them. It's like reading The Great Gatsby or really any expatriate novel. The settings are beautiful, the characters are shallow yet complex and every single adventure they get into, is glamorous and exciting. The stories seem to teleport you into their lives, and even though the characters don't seem all that happy, you're enjoying every word of it.