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True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir
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True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  1,541 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Ernest Hemingway's final posthumous work bears the rather awkward designation "a fictional memoir" and arrives under a cloud of controversial editing and patching--but all of that ends up being beside the point. Though this account of a 1953 safari in Kenya lacks the resolution and clarity of the best Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms) it is "real" Hemingwa ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shaun
"Africa took them and changed them all in some ways. If they could not change, they hated it."
That was the most important line in the book. Those who could not see the narrator become "village," have missed that line and applied their ugly American prudence to Africa, like the countless before who could not change. And they hated it.
I will say I changed. Not while reading this, for it was not riveting on its own. No. I changed when I lived and worked in the villages of Kenya. I was changed in so
...more
Daniel Villines
This book is even better, probably like most good books, the second time through. With the story and themes put aside, the second glance provides the reader with the opportunity to dig through all the bologna that forms the Hemingway persona.

I get the sense that Hemingway is saying, "Here I am and it's all true but it’s also all a lie. But of course, I cannot come out and tell a true story about myself. Therefore, I leave my lies a bit thinner in the sincere hope that you will see through them a
...more
Jayme
This book didn't make me think much of Hemingway as a man. I disliked just about every part of this story, although it was beautifully written. The most irritating part was his courting of a young woman from the village. I think I would have been driven mad if I were stuck in a foreign country while my husband flitted about with another girl. Even so, the book didn't really make me sympathetic with his wife, Mary though. She comes off as a little dim in my opinion, completely obsessed with killi ...more
Grady Miller
Must Hemingway reading. It's time to embrace late Hemingway. His late works have been much maligned and it's baloney. Nature lives and breathes here in Hemingway's Africa; his humor, romance and deep perceptions after a lifetime are in ample evidence. I say take it as it is and forget that silly confusing label 'fictional memoir.' Late Hemingway is great Hemingway, too--there's a great warmth and articulatenes in the memoirs that warmed me to his writing. Just because it's a different game from ...more
David
Two works bracketing Hemingway’s life were both published after his death: A Moveable Feast, which chronicles his youthful days in Paris at that time of creative fervor, and this ‘fictional memoir’ culled by his son Patrick from a massive draft that the author gave up on after the two plane crashes that cut into his vigor and may well have been the beginning of the end for Hemingway. The story tells of the Hemingway’s last safari in Africa on the eve of Kenyan independence. First there is the st ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is only the second Hemingway book I've read, the other being Fiesta (or, The Sun Also Rises) which I quite enjoyed except for the ending. True at First Light is an account of his second safari in Africa, in 1953, with his fourth wife, Mary, which he wrote a year later. It was first published posthumously by his son Patrick, who edited it from a much longer manuscript. This is all in the introduction by Patrick Hemingway, which is best to read first. There's also a handy list of characters a ...more
Liz
Jan 08, 2012 Liz rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ernest hemingway fans
Recommended to Liz by: self
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly Paprocki
Hemingway rolled over in his grave when this horrible mess was published.
The dead don't edit. Seems they can't.
Hemingway might have saved this if he had been around to rework and publish it. My guess is he had no intention of ever releasing this pitiful, ignorant, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, typical male fantasy mess. It is one giant stereo-type and utterly unenjoyable.
His son should be ashamed. Not only for letting his father appear even more narrow minded but for publishing it without it
...more
Matthew Lippart
Great book. First Hemingway I have read, and I dug it. There was a melancholy mixed in though all the joking, drinking, and adventuring, and I found that to be rather touching, especially towards the end. The idea that this was a paradise for Hemingway, but he knew it would end- that sense of finality permeates the book and makes it much more than a travel log/diary. Recommended.
Art
This was one of those gray area books, I didn't dislike it enough to say I hated it yet I didn't like it enough to say I liked it either. I felt like I was reading the dialog from a 1950s B movie. I see why this one went unpublished. If you like Hemingway or old African safari stories give it a shot, otherwise there's other books to read.
Falley
I expected Hemmingway or Mary to die in a plane crash or be killed by a lion anytime. A should read for H fans. He must have been truly and soundly and completely a tortured soul.
Simon
That Ernest was up his own arse a bit. The excitement of the hunt is well conveyed, and he sets the scene well, but his arrogant tone begins to grate after a while.
Ron Charles
Several years ago Patrick Hemingway went over to New York with a memoir that his father had written, and it was accepted by a fairly good publisher.

His deal made an awful row I heard, and I think that was where we lost the truth, because when his father's book came out it was quite changed. It was more odd than ever, and it was not so graceful, and it was not so nice. The publishers had praised this memoir pretty highly and it rather went to their heads.

It is not really such a bad book as the cr
...more
Dan Yost
Hemingway was a huge dick, huh?
Amy
Quite enjoyed parts of the prose and elements of the story (drinking, hunting, bantering), but considering how long it took me to finish, despite its short length, probably not one of my favorites. But anything about Africa gets at least 3 stars.

Memorable quotes:
"Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa."

"I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke that I was not happy."

"Tell her there is no such word as love. Just as ther
...more
Beth
This is a fictional memoir of a Hemingway Safari in Kenya near the base of Kilimanjaro, edited and published posthumously by son of an earlier marriage, Patrick. This takes place during the mid 1900's when many men didn't feel the need to be sensitive. Ernest's musings, with Mary, his 4th wife, and MEN: CG, Ngui, Mzuri, Arap Meina, the Informer, and others, (who don't seem as different personalities), revolve around shooting, drinks, Paris, airplane fly overs Kenya, writers, animals, meals, and ...more
Jean-Pierre
In one sense, the book, albeit published posthumously, is real Hemingway -- a semi-autobiographical account of one of the many activities (bullfighting, fishing, great-game hunting, ...) of which Ernest had become an aficionado. In another sense, however, I would not rate it as vintage Hemingway -- it neither reads nor sounds like the rest of his oeuvre: the sentences are too long, and there is more introspection, whereas in most other novels psychological states are translated into masculine ac ...more
Pamela Barrett
True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir is Ernest Hemingway’s account of his last African safari. The unpublished manuscript was completed by his son Patrick, who wrote the introduction. As wonderful as it is to have another bit of writing by Hemingway this was a difficult book to read. I wanted to get lost in the adventure of this era and the people of Africa, but somehow the writing didn’t flow. I found myself trying to remember the characters and waiting for something to pull it together. The ...more
Patrick
I need some Hemingway.

And Hemingway I got. While this book was controversial due to its editing at release (I just found out that Under Kilimanjaro is a fuller version of the same African book), this really contains a lot of quintessential Hemingway: seeking out and confronting danger, complex (of his own making) relationships, and an overwhelming curiosity about the world. This was a slow starter, but overall I enjoyed it. Once I moved beyond the initial start-up the book was really interestin
...more
Susan Emmet
Didn't know about this fictional memoir until I saw it next to an anthology of Hemingway's short stories at John Merrill's in Hallowell.
Liked it; didn't love it.
Culled by middle son Patrick after Hemingway's suicide and published in 1998, the book focuses on Hemingway's time in Kenya with fourth wife Mary and a host of African attendants and British friends. They were temporarily "running" a government hunting preserve...and hunting alot themselves. H. also offered "surgery" to those in need - a
...more
John Harder
True at First Light is described as a fictional memoir. What is that? Imagine that you are in a bar after a day of shopping. You feel you have a somewhat amusing story about buying 5 gallons of pickels. When you relate the incident to the guy next to you do you tell the story straight or do you shine in up a bit? If you are confident that you won't get caught or your companion is near death, you lie. So a story about a trip to Costco suddenly becomes a quest for life saving provisions which also ...more
Mark Maxam
I love Hemmingway's stories of Africa. As someone who knows the land and the people, I appreciate someone who write about Kenya with the depth of u derstanding that Hemmingway does in this book. His writing gives a glimpse into what it must have felt like to be on safari during colonial times, and the nature of the interactions between tribal Kenyans and the GWH (Great White Hunters). I appreciate H's nature of experiential discovery, and his willingness to take it where it might go; although I ...more
Booknblues
Prepare to camp in Africa in Hemingway’s True at First Light a fictional memoir of the time he spent in Africa for Look Magazine in 1954. It is an intriguing picture of Africa and Hemingway at that time.

At 55, and no longer a young buck, it is interesting to see Hemingway’s developing perspective and we can read it liberally here as this book was released posthumously in 1999 with his son Patrick editing it from half of its original length. It therefore lacks Hemingway’s usual terseness of phras
...more
Brian
I don't really consider myself a Hemingway "fan", though I have read enough of his work to have been both entertained and bored by it. Even at his worst, he is generally worth most of his acclaim, just not my favorite.

"True At First Light" was the fictionalized memoir on which Hemingway worked as long as he felt himself able to write. It chronicles his last safari (the one that ended in his being reported dead--twice--after each of two plane crashes in which he was involved within weeks of each
...more
Kerry
Jan 03, 2009 Kerry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hunt, people who like birds, people who like to look around at the great outdoors
Brian Dennehy did the narration. On the one hand, he didn't do much to differentiate from one character to the next, which was sometimes confusing. And I guess he can't do a British accent either . . . what is up with actors not being able to do a British accent? That should be a requirement for qualifying for a SAG card. Anyway. But his voice is soothing and I enjoyed his narration. At least partly because, in my mind's eye, he looks a little like Hemingway.

So, I liked this book. Nothing happen
...more
Amanda Lima
What I liked about this book was that Hemingway has a very human way of telling the story. Even though it is a fictional memoir, his narration makes it feel very real. He describes Africa with such passion and respect and detail that you can get easily caught up a feel at home in the environment described. The plot is quite simple and, therefore, sometimes, I felt like he was taking too long to get where he wanted. It got a little repetitive at some points and I think he prolongued it a little t ...more
Marco
Mzuri sana. Ma che bello!
Leggere Hemingway �� sempre estremamente piacevole. Scrive bene e riesce a farti sentire presente nei luoghi che racconta.
Nei libri sull'Africa poi c'�� un lirismo e un amore che traspare che ti fa venire il desiderio di condividere quel mondo, certo oggi scomparso.
In questo lungo racconto, una specie di diario della sua esperienza in Kenia, c'�� un profondo rispetto per le tradizioni delle varie etnie e rispetto per la fauna.
Il tema principale �� desiderio di Mary di
...more
Kate
Curious fictionalized memoir - much less macho than I remember Hemmingway the first time around. Curious. Have I softened with age? Has distance from Africa and too much time in the materialistic New World blurred my lens? Loved it for the quotable lines and the nostalgia for the old Africa. Lovely storytelling style. Spare prose with a lot said between the lines. Humour too!
Judi
I remain smitten with Hemingway and his writing. Each book of his that I read fleshes out his life and perspective a bit more. This book shares several glimpses of his dry, self mocking humor. It appears to be written more in a journal/diary format of time spent in Africa in his later years in the capacity as a "honorary" game warden of sorts. He is accompanied by his fourth wife, Mary. In some passages in the book he offers reflections of his younger days. Memories. The book was never completed ...more
metaphor
I had read with distaste various books written about myself by people who knew all about my inner life, aims and motives. Reading them was like reading an account of a battle where you had fought written by someone who had not only not been present, but in some cases, had not even been born when the battle had taken place. All these people who wrote of my life both inner and outer wrote with an absolute assurance that I had never felt.
*
There are always mystical countries that are a part of one's
...more
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Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collec ...more
More about Ernest Hemingway...
The Old Man and the Sea The Sun Also Rises For Whom the Bell Tolls A Farewell to Arms A Moveable Feast

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“Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa.” 11 likes
“There is no such word as love. Just as there is no word for sorry.” 2 likes
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