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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Papa Revealed in Unflattering Ways
One of the most interesting stories that I have read about Ernest Hemingway described his patrolling for submarines during World War II as a booze-ridden exercise in self-indulgence. I was astonished to find that same quality described in the master's own hand in this mildly edited version of Hemingway's personal notes about his last African safari. Hemingway's son,...
Published on 5 May 2004 by Donald Mitchell

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mzuri, Papa
Ah, Hemingway! How divine and irritating you are in equal measure!
His beguiling prose leads you into a sort of mesmerised state of being, so you can miss his themes in amongst the endless descriptions of mealtimes and bedtime rituals. Those rituals do become fascinating, and they do take up much of our lives, so why not, you may say, include them in a memoir, even a...
Published on 28 Mar 2006 by M. G. Jones


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Papa Revealed in Unflattering Ways, 5 May 2004
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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: True at First Light (Hardcover)
One of the most interesting stories that I have read about Ernest Hemingway described his patrolling for submarines during World War II as a booze-ridden exercise in self-indulgence. I was astonished to find that same quality described in the master's own hand in this mildly edited version of Hemingway's personal notes about his last African safari. Hemingway's son, Patrick, makes the same observation in an aside in the book's introduction.
If you read this book as fiction, you will rate it somewhere around two stars. If you rate it as a journal, you will rate it around four stars. I chose the latter interpretation. This book is described as a fictional memoir, but I think the memoir part is here more than the fiction. Hemingway's problems with women, fascination with exercising authority, reticence in sharing his personal thoughts, and open courting of an African "fiancee" will probably make your realize that someone who can write like an angel may not have those same qualities in the rest of his life. There's a section in the book where his publisher sends a letter from a reader making these kind of critical observations about Hemingway's flaws as a person, and he is enraged by what the reader says. Yet the material in the book certainly supports the reader, rather than Hemingway's self-image.
The book finds Hemingway at the head of a camp as a sort of temporary, assistant wild life ranger. His "job" is to kill off rogue predators that are destroying villager cattle. While camped there, Hemingway is authorized to kill a limited amount of the old and lame game to provide meat for his camp.
The book is quite penetrating in capturing Hemingway's need to build fictional story lines in his every day conversations, to consume way too much booze, desire personal challenges in the classic masculine tradition (this goes as far as hunting at night alone with a spear), and becoming part of the daily life of the Africans he meets. The book's most interesting parts come in his description of the role and ethics of the person who is trying to help another hunt, in this case a massive, cattle-destroying lion that his wife wishes to shoot before Christmas.
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Hemingway's family home in Oak Park, Illinois and learned a little about his formative years. His mother was the powerhouse in the family, earning an enormous income as a singer while his father, a doctor, handled day-to-day details. Hemingway apparently never forgave his mother for not being a traditional, nurturing mother of the type common in those years. As you read this book, you will see that Hemingway took great pleasure in practicing medicine without a license, undoubtedly feeling closer to his father's role model when he did. I wonder how much each of us feels compelled to play out the emotional dramas we experienced in our youths.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wow what a book, 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: True at First Light (Hardcover)
Just about the best from Hemmimgway and that is saying something. To think that he actually wrote it in the early fifties and it is only available to read from 1999 is incredible. What am amazing final book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars reading for my taste, 20 Jun 2011
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This review is from: True at First Light (Paperback)
I would say when I would be such a good writter
and be in Africa only these words: love on first sight....thats the life I have allways dreamed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How on Earth did I get through this? (Pt. 2), 12 Aug 2010
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This review is from: True at First Light (Hardcover)
The way Ernest Hemingway sometimes wrote from the start he would keep very close to own experiences and only later on change circumstances, develop a literary plot, blur actual characters etc. In other words, to find a draft of his can be confusing to a point where you wonder if you're reading a diary or a fictional work. "True at first" light, though edited (which in this case must mainly mean shortened) by his son, is such a strange creature, but once you know and accept that you can sit back an enjoy this unusual look into the literary laboratory of a true genius.

So to answer my own query that was how I got through it. However, had I taken it as a real, finished novel I would have had a very hard time, and in fact I have to admit that my concentration was beginning to slip somewhat towards the end.

Incidentally, many have wondered at the female main character's tolerance towards her husband's infidelity. It think it's pretty much hinted towards the end that she is no virgin Mary and perhaps to allow herself certain escapades she let's him get away with it, too.

The sad thing is, of course, that if the author hadn't "taken the hemingway out" he would have had raw material enough in this draft for several fully finished novels with perhaps a few splendid short stories thrown in, no extra charge.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story, 19 Oct 1999
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This review is from: True at First Light (Hardcover)
And that is what I most enjoyed about this book, its story. However I had grave misgivings about the lucidity of the Mary\Debba relationship. As Marys reputation as a protective and somewhat jealous wife I cannot imagine her as being tolerant towards her husbands "fiancee". (Which Mary does not hesitate, in perhaps a mild sarcastic manner, to refer to Debba) However there are subtle undertones of Marys anguish and Hemingways lack of clarity on his relationship with them both as he claims throughout the story that he loves them both, however strangely, no absolout comparisons. Yet this story is powerfully descriptive without the prose of one so acclaimed. One can read this book and jump into the well of descriptiveness, leave the author Hemingway behind and read the realness of it all. His awayness with Africa is astounding, his awareness of it, perhaphs somewhat indulging, is clever and very self-serving. A really enlightening read which when ends is never truely over.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mzuri, Papa, 28 Mar 2006
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This review is from: True at First Light (Paperback)
Ah, Hemingway! How divine and irritating you are in equal measure!
His beguiling prose leads you into a sort of mesmerised state of being, so you can miss his themes in amongst the endless descriptions of mealtimes and bedtime rituals. Those rituals do become fascinating, and they do take up much of our lives, so why not, you may say, include them in a memoir, even a 'fictional' one? Diversionary tactics from the bearded one, nevertheless, I tend to think.
Hemingway's pursuit of game seems to be a transference of repressed aggression from the humans around him to the poor beasts. He's in a menage a trois with his European lady companion and a more earthy native girl, and the tensions that arise need to be released somehow.
His European squeeze, Mary, spends the trip trying to bag her lion, and whilst she certainly gets a piece of it, the kill isn't entirely satisfactory. Similarly, she finds it impossible to bag the old man and the piece ends rather abruptly with nothing settled - I think the book was unfinished? But then I guess that's how life is.
Hemingway fans will love it, but non-devotees won't be converted.
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True at First Light
True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway (Paperback - 6 April 2000)
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