on 21 July 1999
It's difficult now to explain to a high school Junior reading THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA why Hemingway is still important. This is because we have so thoroughly digested him. He seems raw in his pure form.
But perhaps the strangest Hemingway fact is that there are more books ABOUT him than there are BY him. As a stylist, we have learned his lessons. As a flawed icon, he has much to teach us.
This is why, perhaps, biographies of America's most famous writer still tend to sell well. Well enough even to merit Michael Reynold's five volume study, which is brought to completion with HEMINGWAY: THE FINAL YEARS.
With this volume, Reynolds has finally replaced Carlos Baker as the definitive Hemingway biographer. And why not? The series has featured authentic scholarship plus a tone of fairness, and an occasional surprise.
It has also been very well written. My personal favorite is HEMINGWAY: THE 1930s--perhaps not Hemingway's most productive time, but Reynold's masterpiece.
THE FINAL YEARS almost measures up. Dealing with the last two decades of Hemingway's life (which, in spite of the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prizes, can only be described as disastrous), Reynolds effectively traces a brilliant talent shot to hell by depression, drugs, and alcoholism. Along the way, he deftly sketches in the "supporting cast": Martha, the independent third wife; Mary, her long-suffering successor; the sons Jack, Patrick, and Gregory; and the important flirtations Adriana and Valerie. Hemingway's final descent into suicidal depression has never been more grippingly told.
The book's one flaw is its abrupt ending. Following the suicide, Reynolds tidies up with a one page epilogue, a rapid "over-and-out" summary that leaves his reader cold. In a biography of five volumes, you might expect a discussion of the aftermath, the funeral, the posthumous works, and the tragedy of yet another suicide (Jack's daughter Margaux). Instead, one must refer to Jeffrey Meyers' reissued HEMINGWAY (1985) for these sort of details.
But this is a small problem in an otherwise superior foray into Hemingway biography, a field Reynolds can now feel he leads.
on 25 August 1999
Michael S. Reynolds' "Hemingway: The Final Years" is excellent and a worthy addition to any library, as are the previous volumes. I have read every Hemingway biography (I even have such paperback quickies as HEMINGWAY: LIFE AND DEATH OF A GIANT and THE PRIVATE HELL OF HEMINGWAY that were published shortly after Papa's death) since my father, twenty-two years ago, gave me a copy of Carlos Baker's 1967 authorized biography (which I also recommend; it gives you the a great overview of Hemingway's life and work and is very readable), and I have found Reynolds biographies to be wonderful and informative.
on 4 July 2013
It is a wonder anyone has the nerve to write another biography of Ernest Hemingway after this huge,masterly, surely seminal work by Michael Reynolds, well written, thoroughly researched, full of surprising insights.He seems to have explored every place Hemingway ever visited or lived in,and has acquired at least a working knowledge of all his areas of expertise, fishing, shooting, hunting,sailing.
Hemingway was not a very nice man and Reynolds, while paying tribute to his positive points and what he considers his genius, acknowledges this." As ample evidence attests, he could be an impossible man to live with, a sarcastic drunk, a self-centred adolescent, but no one was better in an emergency than Ernest."
He was very brave, fearless, was involved in several wars, faced death many times, almost certainly saved the life of his fourth wife when the doctors had given up hope, loved getting into scraps and fights, nursed grievances. A man of massive contradictions yet capable of great kindness and loyalty,and inspiring loyalty, though he dumped most of his friends when he became famous especially people who had helped him in the beginning, including his first two wives who had supported him financially.He found his match in his third wife, the formidable Martha Gellhorn who virtually dumped him,although they both probably had matching egos.He enjoyed fame but spurned most of its trappings.
His father had committed suicide which had a deep influence on him.It seems almost as though Hemingway was in love with death, fanatically enjoyed fishing, hunting, bullfighting and in the end it was inevitable, I suppose, that he killed himself.
Above all he never stopped, in any situation,anywhere, writing which is the greatest and most sincere tribute to him one can pay - books, fiction and non fiction,articles,hundreds of short stories. No, although I didn't like Hemingway, in a funny way I admire him, often quote him, but I loved this huge biography which I have not yet quite finished and shall be sorry when I do.
on 1 November 2014
This is an enthralling biography of one of the 20th century's most important writers, but for some reason, in a five volume sequence that is very careful to follow the creation, struggle with, and revisions of, each of Hemingway's works, his most famous novel falls out of view between volume four, which ends with the beginning of For Whom The Bell Tolls, and volume five, which starts with that great novel's end. A very strange lapse, perhaps due to time or space, but, considering how wonderfully Reynolds deals with Hemingway's astute weaving of life and research elsewhere, something of a huge loss. Five stars for the overall enterprise, however.
on 26 September 2013
Last of a 5 part series, Michael Reynolds must be lauded for sticking to his monumental task. He writes brilliantly, clearly, concisely. Scholarly work, highly readable, almost summarizing the happenings of EH. Recommended. A fast read that takes you there.
Thoughts: read Carlos Baker's work first - jump to Kenneth Lynn - he has done a great job in updating facts about Hemingway, and for those who want a tome - Reynolds has to be the icing. However, each author is different, but all ooze class.
on 14 August 1999
michael reynolds has written about hemingway like no other. his book includes material i've never seen before in the many other novels about the author's troubled life. for the first time, you get a real sense of the trauma hemingway put others through, including his long suffering wife. why she hung on and never left him (as she often threatened) is never really made clear. but that's only a small fault of this great work. Doug Proffitt Louisville, Kentucky. doug @whas-tv.com
on 20 August 1999
The story of Hemingway's last years lets you enter a world of desillusion, faked grandeur and, ultimately, madness.
It seems as if the reader was present at the scenes which are brilliantly depicted by Reynolds.
Getting to know the life of Hemingway lets you add a supplementary dimension to the reading of his works.