The Old Man and the Sea: review

I have embarked om a Hemingway book cycle. In most of the authors and literature content I follow, Hemingway often appears as a source, model, inspiration for minimalist writing and creating stunning images in a few words. So, in the near future, there might be more Hemingway book reviews here, this is normal, all part of a plan. 

I had read some stuff from him, translated into French, a long time ago at school, because I was forced to, and I don’t even remember anything except for ideas of manliness and nature. I was going his books open-minded, but ready to read a legend.

Without prior information, voluntarily to avoid spoilers, I started my cycle with the book everybody is talking about: “The Old Man and the Sea”. Also, it’s a quick book to read and felt it was an appropriate mood of the holidays.

This is a story of an old fisherman in Cuba, poor and without family, facing a string of bad fishing luck, going out to catch the Fish, alone, on his old boat. Voila. Simple. No spoilers.

I know, a priori, the adventures of an old man fishing on a boat… It sounds boring. But, the book is packed with fishing action you never knew it was so intense. So much is happening. Lots of incredible scenes unfold with vivid clarity and clear directions on the little boat, as you lived them with Santiago, the old man. We also have access to the thoughts of the old man, his internal dialogue, which most of the time he says out loud, alone on the ocean.

There is a lot of fishing jargon, mixed with occasional Spanish and American references to baseball, which could make the story complicated, but they are cleverly diluted along the paragraphs and can be deduced from the context. And if you don’t get some words, that’s OK, Santiago doesn’t know the meaning of all of them too, like “bone spurs”, which comes back often. 

I enjoyed Santiago’s life story, which relates his extraordinary strength, how getting old has affected his life, body, relationships with others, all while accumulating all his fishing experience and tales. 

On the very first page, I found the stunning image and beautiful words I was expecting: “The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat”. I found this sentence so perfect. So early, it raised expectations again. 

However, it kind-of ended there.

Once we are on the boat, the action, the waiting and internal dialogue take up all the space, and even though the writing is very effective, I was expecting it to be more pretty.

The internal dialogues are written in somewhat naive manner which I found too easy sometimes. There is a lot of waiting in fishing and we are waiting a lot, hooked (aha) for the good reasons. 

There are lots of repetitions, and the story could have benefited from deeper meaning. Here, look at me, criticizing and giving my opinion on a masterpiece that received the Pulitzer. 

I hope that for future readers I will be lowering your expectations, so you will be able to enjoy this book more. I would definitely read it again, next time, without the high expectations.

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About Fab

Solutions Architect, I build great workflows for the news and media production industries. I play with data too.

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