Jakes Barnes is our narrator and main character and yet the book revolves around the machinations of Lady Brett Ashley, a beautiful young woman that has everything and yet only wants what she cannot have. The result of Lady Ashley is that most every man in the book is thrilled and miserable for her existence. There is a lot of drinking in THE SUN ALSO RISES, that mirrors Ernest Hemingway’s own adventures in France and Spain during the 1920s. Although Hemingway just liked to drink you get the impression that Hemingway’s characters drink to rid themselves of the pain caused by the oblivious Lady.
The conventional wisdom of the book seems to be that Jake and Lady Ashley are in love, but unable to consummate their relationship due to Jake’s unspecified war injury. But it seems to me that Lady Ashley’s love for Jake is precisely because his injury allows her to see herself as some sort of tragic heroine. For his macho reputation, Hemingway writes very sensitive and complicated men that hide their emotions in booze. The most outwardly macho of them all, Robert Cohn, is treated as a bully and loathed by everyone by the conclusion.
Although Hemingway’s personal adventures in Paris get much ink, I feel that the novel only offers a glimpse of that location. The sequences in Spain are much more vivid. You’ll learn how to fish for Spanish trout or how the bulls are herded through town rather than how to get from the Champ Elyse to Notre Dame. The reader comes away understanding why Hemingway was so invested in the Spanish Civil War. He really loved that country.
I don't know whether I would recommend the book to just anyone. I think you'd need to have some interest in the locales or activities, because the characters aren't exactly inspiring. Hemingway's short stories from this period seem more thought provoking.