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on 10 January 2012
There are enough good reviews here, which leaves me little to add except that this book figures in my top ten favourite reads of all time. I've read it on and off since I was twelve or thirteen (I'm now thirty-seven), and it still never fails to capture the imagination and pull you right into the story. It's a beautifully crafted masterpiece suitable for all ages. Great stuff!
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on 7 May 2011
This isn't the exact copy I have, but it is the closest so it will have to do. If you have never read anything by Hemingway, this might be the best place to start. It is short, simple, and without any of the brutality or serious depressive atmosphere of most of his other books, but it still has the same masterful prose style as everything else he wrote. This has never been one of my favourites of his, but it is wonderful to read, and I think I enjoyed it more this time than any other. Hemingway was one of the very few people in history who really knew how to write. He wrote about what he knew well, and he was able to transfer what he perceived with his keen senses onto the page in such a way that someone completely ignorant of the subject could still see and feel what he was describing. And not only could he describe things so clearly and distinctly, but also so beautifully that through his words there always flows emotion - usually melancholy in nature, it's true, but nonetheless pure, poignant emotion. Most writers would give their right arms to be able to conjure up emotion in such a deceptively simple way, but most will never be able to do it. Cormac McCarthy, I have noticed, tries to write more and more like Hemingway, and does fairly well at it, but he will never surpass the master, and most writers who admire him never even attempt to copy his style. Because what seems so simple is anything but, and another one of his many admirable qualities is that he knew what to leave out as well, which is something almost every author needs to learn better. I think most writers would think that this book needed to be longer, and would have tried to fill it out with non-essential material (more characters, side story, back story, lost love, etc.), which would have taken something away from it rather than adding to it, as he well knew. But enough gushing - simply put, if you haven't read this, you should.
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The Old Man and the Sea is Ernest Hemingway at his simplest, and most powerful, as a story teller. The sentences are short. The meaning is clear. The cadence of the prose advances your sense of what is happening.
An old man goes out fishing alone from Cuba and hooks the fish of a lifetime. This fish could make a lifetime of disappointments and setbacks all worth while.
After an incredible and exhausting fight, the fish is his. Now all he has to do is get it back to shore. Then the struggle really begins!
The Old Man and the Sea lets us see our own lives more clearly, by experiencing the challenge to and empathizing with the fisherman in this classic tale of man versus nature and man versus himself that explores the true nature of human nobility. What does life mean? What is striving for? From what do we gain our dignity?
Anyone who thinks that he who dies with the most toys wins will can learn a great deal from this story.
Even if the story was not so compelling and universal in its appeal and themes, the book is worth the trip just for the writing. Simple words combine into simple sentences that build into metaphors that pile on top of metaphors in order to make for a magnificent vista and experience for you. Seldom has so much complexity been portrayed with such simplicity. What's even more astonishing is how short this novella is. Amazing!
Just to let you know how much I love this book, I often use the techniques and concepts in The Old Man and the Sea in my own writing. Miscommunication is what people have the most trouble with in cooperating with each other. Any time you run into that stall, think about how Hemingway would have solved the problem. Tell a story like this one that makes the point you want to share. Then tell the story again and again. Thirty times or more, and everyone will begin to get it. When your listeners start telling the story thirty times to others, you have made an important first step.
Read this book, reread this book, learn from it each time, and enjoy ... enjoy ... enjoy!
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on 5 January 2016
A really very good book, whether or not you wish to read into it all sorts of symbolism, religiosity sans religion per se, etc. Hemingway, and this speaking as a vegetarian, was one heck of a writer, and man, and certainly seemed to live a little. I don't rate this quite as highly as 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', but that's prob. as much to do with my own political sympathies and interest in the Spanish Civil War as it is the text.
Actually, what this reminds me of are my own cursed trips to the launderette in Drabford, W Yorks, as a much younger man. I'd fill a bin liner with dirty clothes and head off up the hill, doing my utmost to remain inconspicuous in the crepuscular light. However, it wouldn't be long before the bag began to give, and the clothes started to fall out. And it was all the worse on the return journey, the bag now in tatters, the clothes, being washed and tumble dried, seeming to have doubled in volume. The headlights of the passing rush hour traffic were like unto the eyes of so many mocking sharks, to stretch the metaphor a little too far, and I was lucky if I made it back with more than a sock!
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on 8 March 2015
I feel I'm missing out somewhere. This is widely acclaimed as a beautifully written masterpiece. But I did not find it so. I agree that it's a reasonably good story (but very simple, and taken from a true event, I understand), and that some of the writing conjures up images of the sea quite well. There may well be powerful allegories or metaphors buried in the tale, although I couldn't be sure (and Hemingway said otherwise - "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man" etc. "The fish is a fish").

But I find his writing style awful. His sentences look to me as though they have been translated from another language by someone with poor, rather childlike, writing skills. I wanted to edit half his sentences - either too short, or several flat clauses joined together with many "and"s, lacking helpful punctuation, and looking like a caricature of "spare" writing. Just flat and toneless. Or, as EH might have put it: "I read the book and I found the sentences dull and I found the lack of punctuation unhelpful and I found the writing style irritating and intrusive and mannered".

I know that is heresy, and academics get paid for telling us how great his style is, but to me this "great style" is emperor's clothes. It would not be tolerated from any other writer. I've found similar problems with another couple of books of his I've read, but in this short novella he reaches a peak of affected dullness of writing. Gore Vidal referred to Hemingway's style as "careful, artful, immaculate idiocy of tone", and I agree with a quarter of that. A better view of writing, for me, comes from Elmore Leonard, who said "If it sounds like writing, I re-write it." Wise words, sadly written too late for Hemingway, whose prose more than most sounds like writing with a capaial W, to hear. Not that he would have changed a word anyway. While many think Hemingway was a great writer, Hemingway KNEW he was a great writer. And I can't say otherwise, whatever my opinion.
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on 22 December 2001
This novella is not one for the lazy reader. For them it is a story about a man trying to catch a fish off the Cuban coast. However for the thinking reader this book is second to very few I have experienced. Hemingway's theory that "the grace of movement of an iceberg is due to only one eighth of it being above water" has never been more relevant than to this text.
Above the surface an old fisherman, Santiago, befriended by a young bog, Manolin, sets off as usual and catches a Marlin, resulting in a lengthy battle to reel it in. However below the surface is a commentary on masculinity, a common Hemingway theme, and the tragic tale of a man whose once considerable powers have now deserted him, leaving him hungry and alone apart from his apprentice. It doesn't take long to read this book, but it does take a long time to fully appreciate it, and I would advise re-reading it a few times to make sure you get absolutely everything from this tale. Not that this will be a problem, however, I read it three times and each time uncovered some new twist, such is the beauty and subtlety of Hemingway's craft.
The reader gets out of this book what they put it, but if you put in the time you will be left with a truly memorable read that you will definitely want to return to in the future.
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on 16 July 2015
I approached reading this with some eagerness after it was selected as a book of the month at my book club; it didn't live up to my hopes. Parts if it were splendid. Hemmingway's description of the old man's situation at the start of the book is superb. Great detail, wonderful description. You really feel for this man. But as the "sea" part of the book progressed I got increasingly bored. The chase though superbly described just wasn't very interesting (to me a least).

Someone in the group made the comment that this was the second time they'd read the booked, that they liked Hemmingway but on this occassion read up to page 40 and then jumped to near the end of the book, page 80 of so. That sounds like a good a good recommendation apart from the fact that that is, sort of, the whole point of the book.

Another Hemmingway fan in the group pointed out that Hemmingway was into hunting and that you could see that in this middle section with the detailed detailed account of the old man fishing - that seems plausible for me. And maybe that was my problem with the book, rather too technical in the middle section? Not sure - didn't leave me with an urge to read more Hemmingway, which is a shame.
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on 13 January 2012
I'm going to keep this review directly proportional to the size of this book. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is wonderful, brilliant, moving, profound, riveting and noble. It's 100 pages of beautiful, robust writing, where every word counts.

From reading an epic like War and Peace (still ongoing) this was a revelation as an exercise in how to convey so much emotion and meaning with so very few words.

I've read it five times, and it never loses any of it's charm or magic. Hemingway has written some amazing novels; full of powerful, hardy and noble characters, but none for me come close to Santiago the fisherman and his struggle against nature in this lyrical and poetic little book.

I'll say no more. Read this book.
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on 5 November 2015
As a person who simply reads for pleasure I have to say that I didn't get much enjoyment out of this book at all, in fact I was pleased to finish it.
Just two 'characters' - an old man and a big fish - and the fish was the more interesting of the two - occupying a tediously slow 99 pages.
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on 5 May 2015
A true masterpiece, and an enduring work of art. Probably Hemingway's greatest book. If you are taken by Hemingway's style then you will surely find this simple tale to be powerful and moving. As Thomas Wolfe wrote later 'I held on like the Old Man and the Sea'.
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