09 October 2009

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

Title: The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Published: 1980/1952 Pages: 127
Genre: Literary Fiction

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has no luck when it comes to fish finds himself pitted against a great marlin far out in the ocean.

My Thoughts
I just don't know. Seriously, I can not tell how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it is such a simplistic story and told with such plain prose that it is not tremendously exciting or interesting. On the other hand, the story moved me. I felt for the old man; I admired his courage, I felt his pain as the fishing line cut his hands, and I mourned with him over his losses. So, because of my confusion, let's start with a list:

What I Enjoyed
The strength of character shown by Santiago
The love between the young boy and Santiago
Some of the descriptions of animals were rather poignant

What I Didn't Care For
My inability to truly picture what was happening
The sadness inherent in the plotline and in the characters
The ending

Overall, I have to admit that I don't really see the major appeal of the book. I'm glad I read it...twice...but I don't ever think I'll have a burning desire to read it again. I would however, like it to be made into a movie, ala Cast Away, but I think this is just so I can have a clear visual.

Memorable Scene: At one point, Santiago sees a bird circling a school of flying fish, but the flying fish are being chased by a school of dolphins. The way the scene is set up the reader relates to the bird who has no chance of catching his dinner with the dolphins so close. I couldn't stop thinking about the flying fish though who are being pursued to their deaths by two separate animals. They are not safe above or below the surface.

Memorable Quote: "Do not think about sin, the thought. There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it...and I am not sure that I believe in it. Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin...You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved hime when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?"

Question: Have you ever read a book you didn't enjoy because you just couldn't picture what was happening?

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know.

Rebecca Reads: "While it has an element of sadness, there is also a beauty and majesty around its short plot"
Vulpes Libris: "I wonder if it’s not a half-baked idea he had on one of his drunken binges"
Book Escape: "While not much happens in this book, I found it a very interesting and quick read"
Musings: "This concise novella packs a punch in 128 short pages"


  1. I absolutely love this book. It's my favorite of Hemingway's (so far). I always thought it would be boring - my cousin told me so when I was a kid, and I looked up to her - but when I finally read it in 2001, I just fell in love. I've reread it several times since then, and will likely continue to do so in the future.

  2. I read this in high school and hated it. I've never been a Hemingway fan though. Farewell to Arms depressed me.

  3. I only read it once. It was my high-school's required reading and I remember how much I really liked this story then. I did think it was simple but I also think even now that sometimes the simplest stories have the biggest impact in what they try to tell.

  4. This is my favorite Hemingway piece. The lack of plot and overwhelming sadness is intentional to show the despair of the main character.

  5. In terms of visualizing this book, there is a fantastic animated version available on the web, at:


  6. I haven't read this one, but hope to someday. The short length helps!

  7. Amanda - It's awesome to have a book you can read over and over again isn't it?

    Chris - I loved The Sun Also Rises but this one just didn't do it for me; it was good but not great to me, and I would agree that part of it is the depressing nature of his writing.

    Lilly - I agree that simple can be moving and beautiful, but sometimes simple is just boring.

    Serena - I can completely see your point, and that's why I can't make up my mind about the book. I realize it was artful, but sometimes depressing just isn't what I'm in the mood for I guess.

    Rhapsody - Very cool. Thank you.

    Stacy - I would definitely recommend reading it as it is certainly a unique experience. And the short length really does help.

  8. I loved it too! (and you read my review so you know what I said)

    I think I wasn't looking for something I could visualize though. I was reading it for the emotions. Those emtions I could relate to!

  9. Rebecca - I think mood makes such a difference on the reading experience. Maybe if I read this today I'd love it as I'm in a "peaceful easy feeling" kind of mood today.


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