First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises concerns a group of American living in Europe during the 1920s. The narrator and principal character is Jake Barnes, a newspaper correspondent. The leading female character is Lady Brett Ashley. In the course of the novel, we learn that her husband, a British officer, was killed in World War I, and that she was a nurse in the hospital where Jake Barnes was sent after he suffered a disabling injury in combat. Serving as the narrative voice throughout, Jake begins the story by talking about his past and current relationship to another character, Robert Cohn, who will subsequently figure in the plot but who is not the novel's protagonist. Jake tells us that Cohn comes from a wealthy Jewish family and that he attended college at Princeton where he distinguished himself on the boxing team. When Cohn's first wife left him, he took up a young woman named Frances Clyne, and she went with him to Paris where he wrote his first novel. Although Jake speaks of Cohn as a "friend," there is a certain antagonism beneath the surface. Jake characterizes Cohn's book as "poor" and admits that he lied to his friend to get out of a proposed trip to South America. .
It is in the book's second chapter that Jake fills us in on himself. It is there that we learn that the narrator is currently a foreign correspondent working in Paris for an American newspaper. Jake also tells us that he was wounded in World War I, and that his injury has left him in the supremely frustrating condition of being impotent without diminishing his sexual desire. Jake brings the tale into the present night at the Café Napolitan, a popular haunt of the "lost generation" and the avant garde in the Left Bank district of Paris. He meets and buys a drink for a local prostitute, Georgette and when they go to another trendy spot, the Café Select, where they encounter Robert Cohn and his fiancée Frances.