Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1927) is a book that has the power to make you giggle, gasp, cry, and sit contemplating your life and everything and everyone you take for granted. Seriously.

Upon first glance, Hemingway’s writing style actually appeared to me comical, a gimmick. However, short, simple sentence swiftly immerse you into the charming backdrop that is early 20th century Italy, where Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver for the Italian forces in the First World War, tells us his story.

Not only does its basis on Hemingway’s time on the Italian front make it an immensely realistic snapshot of life in wartime, but the novel’s depiction of the protagonist’s falling in love with nurse Catherine Barkley is gut-wrenchingly sweet. I was a fly on the wall; the novel’s realism is unbelievable.

Hemingway does as little as possible to tell us what Henry is feeling or thinking, rather, the novel is made up almost entirely of events, actions, and conversations that give the reader an equally, if not more, in depth and fascinating view into his psyche.

As the entire Italian forces retreat across the country, Henry and a few ambulance drivers split off from the main convoy and decide to make their own way to safety. He has multiple close shaves with death as he winds his way through Italy, escaping the authorities and, meanwhile, searching for his lover.

Henry is a character who, despite all the respect he receives from those around him, all his glorious escapes from danger or his thrilling love affair, came across to me as overwhelmingly distant and lonely throughout much of the novel, even to the reader; his closest and most trustworthy companion. It is a fascinating depiction of a man who withdraws himself from the world after the finding of his soulmate; no longer impressed by the frivolities of life without her.

Never before have I read a novel so rich, so exhilarating, so fast paced, so joyful, so adventurous, but ultimately so inescapably despairing. A Farewell to Arms, as stated by its name, is a story about loss of love.