The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
One-sentence summary: An old fisherman struggles to defeat the biggest catch of his life, and then loses it anyway.
My rating: between four and five stars
When read: February 2011
Why read: As part of a now-abandoned project to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners for best novel.
Impressions: Every time I read a Hemingway novel, I am reminded that I am not a man. Hemingway describes a macho world whose rules I really don’t understand. This is probably his most accessible book, primarily because it’s pretty short, and he won the Pulitzer for it. Even though it is a simple story — and simply told, in Hemingway’s trademark style — it is also a story about life and how to live it.
The problem is that, while I get that, I don’t really understand it in my gut, which I think is what Hemingway wanted. There is a point in Santiago’s struggle when he wonders why he chased the fish out so far. Why didn’t he turn back? Well, I had this exact same thought, except I had it several pages before, when the fish first started towing him out to sea. And that is why I can’t relate to Hemingway’s characters or the heroic code they espouse — because I would have just cut the line.
That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate this story. I enjoy Hemingway’s style, his descriptions of the sea and the marlin and the sharks, which are so precise and evocative. I’m glad I finally got around to reading this, even if it’s likely the last Hemingway novel I will attempt to read.
Current status: On my husband’s bookshelves; I probably will not reread this.
- This was the last major work written by Hemingway and published in his lifetime.
- The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and was cited as a major reason for awarding the Nobel Prize to Hemingway in 1954.
If you liked this book, then you might also like: