Henry gets off the train when it enters Milan. He goes to a wine shop and has a cup of coffee. The proprietor offers to help him, but Henry assures the man that he is in no trouble. After they share a glass of wine, Henry goes to the hospital, where he learns from the porter that Catherine has left for Stresa. He goes to visit Ralph Simmons, one of the opera singers that he encounters earlier, and asks about the procedures for traveling to Switzerland. Simmons, offering whatever help he can, gives Henry a suit of civilian clothes and sends him off to Stresa with best wishes.
Henry takes the train to Stresa. He feels odd in his new clothes, noticing the scornful looks that he receives as a young civilian. Still, he claims that such looks do not bother him, for he has made a “separate peace” with the war. The train arrives in Stresa, and Henry heads for a hotel called the Isles Borromées. He takes a nice room and tells the concierge that he is expecting his wife. In the bar, Emilio, the bartender, reports that he has seen two English nurses staying at a small hotel near the train station. Henry eats but does not answer Emilio’s questions about the war, which, he reflects, is over for him.
Catherine and Helen Ferguson are having supper when Henry arrives at their hotel. While Catherine is overjoyed, Helen becomes angry and berates Henry for making such a mess of her friend’s life. Neither Henry nor Catherine yields to Helen’s stern moralizing, and soon Helen begins to cry. Henry describes the night spent with Catherine: he has returned to a state of bliss, though his thoughts are darkened by the knowledge that the “world breaks everyone” and that good people die “impartially.”
In the morning, Henry refuses the newspaper, and Catherine asks if his experience was so bad that he cannot bear to read about it. He promises to tell her about it someday if he ever gets “it straight in [his] head.” He admits to feeling like a criminal for abandoning the army, but Catherine jokingly assures him that he is no criminal: after all, she says, it was only the Italian army. They agree that taking off for Switzerland would be lovely, and return to bed.
Later that morning, Catherine goes to see Helen, and Henry goes fishing with Emilio. Emilio offers to lend Henry his boat at any time. Henry and Catherine eat lunch with Helen Ferguson. Count Greffi, a ninety-four-year-old nobleman whom Henry befriends on an earlier trip to Stresa, is also at the hotel with his niece. That evening, Henry plays billiards with the count. They talk about how the count mistakenly thought religious devotion would come with age and about whether Italy will win the war.
Later that night, Emilio wakes Henry to inform him that the military police plan to arrest Henry in the morning. He suggests that Henry and Catherine row to Switzerland. Henry wakes Catherine, and they pack and head down to the dock. Emilio stocks them up with brandy and sandwiches and lets them take the boat. He takes fifty lire for the provisions and tells Henry to send him five hundred francs for the boat after he is established in Switzerland.
The ending was good, but depressing.
8 out of 29 people found this helpful
I personally thought it was okay.
It only got interesting for me towards the end.
I personally found the first half of the book a bit monotonous, and Hemingways distanced writing almost glacial. The second half of the book, particularly after the beginning of the Italian retreat, was far more involving with interesting reflections on war, life and death.
The last part made me shed a few tears, it was impetuous and expressed Henry´s desperation, and eventually human desperation, perfectly. I´m quite ambivalent about the book, but the last chapters are definitely worth reading!