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Hemingway's Chair

3.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,132 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
A warm, Walter Mitty-like first novel by beloved actor, comedian, and writer Michael PalinAudiences loved him in Monty Python's Flying Circus and movies like A Fish Called Wanda. Now, for the first time, Michael Palin has turned his hand to fiction, with a book that critics adore and readers will love.

Martin Sproale is a mild-mannered assistant postmaster obsessed with Ern
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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Nov 10, 2010 Leo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book about once a year since I bought it when it came out about 12 years ago. I consider it part of my Hemingway collection and keep it on my shelves with Papa's works.

It is about a meek man finding his worth and his strength to live the life he always dreamed about.

At first he studies Hemingway as a way to escape his terribly boring life as a postal worker in a small town in England. He gathers old items that are similar to what Papa used, like a typewriter that is almost like
Hemingway's Chair was the New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. Ten years hence, I saw the book at a knocked-down price, and considering that I am a fan of New York Times' recommendations, the book moved through the sale, and on to my bedside table faster than Hemingway could write.

Hilarious at times, the book has a dry British humor, a play on words, and oddly lovable characters. All except one. The hero of the book, the main character, Martin Sproale. Engaging at first, there is som
Wendy Unsworth
Nov 02, 2014 Wendy Unsworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martin lives in a small English village where life ticks by without much happening. But change is inevitable and when new management comes to the post office where Martin works it seems that things will never be the same again. I love all of Michael Palin's work and this gentle book sees a 'little' man with a big obsession (Hemmingway) suddenly challenged to stand up for what it important to him. The book is an easy read, as easy as a comfy chair, but in martin's world the story is epic.
May 01, 2014 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to love this book. I am huge Michael Palin fan. When I look back at almost all of my favorite Python skits, he is almost always in them. I also enjoyed the first volume of his memoirs. But here...the story started out well enough but things were not well flushed out meaning I wanted more background on some of the characters and, at times, things felt like they jumped around but it moved along smoothly for the first two acts. It was the third act which hurt the book in my view. Th ...more
Thomas Simpson
Jul 10, 2014 Thomas Simpson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like putting on a comfy sweater. One of those thick, woolen turtlenecks Hemingway wore. It was very natural and very comfortable (for both good and bad). Of course, Michael Palin is my favorite Python (or tied with the late Graham Chapman) and I've watched his travel programs and some of his memoirs before too, so it was likely that I was going to get around to reading his novel. Then when I learned it was about a mild mannered Mr. Pither-esque mailman who is obsessed with ...more
Mar 11, 2014 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was neither a terrible book nor a great book, but somewhere right in the middle, and I'm totally okay with that. I picked it up because I was curious to know what former Python Michael Palin's fiction was like, and though there is definitely quite a bit of humor in it, "Hemingway's Chair" is not quite as zany or side-splittingly funny as some of Palin's Monty Python sketches. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.

Martin Sproale lives a dull life as assistant postmaster in the small, qu
An enjoyable foray into a small town post office and it's changes when one manager leaves and a new and completely different one is assigned to take his place. Some pretty off-the-wall changes begin to shake up this close knit group, who prefer its family-friendly feel. Also central to the story is one employee's obsession with the importance of being the author Ernest Hemingway. Not wanting to give away just how these two points contribute to the story, I'll just say they're important and leave ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's taken just six and half years to get around to reading this. For some reason I kept putting it off when I went hunting in my stacks for the next bedtime book, but about a week or two ago I saw it and was interested enough to give it a go. I found it strangely absorbing. Strangely, because it is about a small town with people living small lives (including the principle character who, ironically, harbours a secret fascination with Ernest Hemmingway and with it a Hemmingway-like feeling of sup ...more
Rex Fuller
Feb 26, 2014 Rex Fuller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mild, entertaining, unchallenging. Read it for the multitude of Hemingway trivia bits. You have to have a feeling for the changing nature of the British Post Office to identify with the story otherwise. The characters were well-defined separate actors. It was easy to remember who was speaking or acting just by the words or actions themselves, something incredibly difficult to pull off. If you don't expect to have your socks blown off it's worth the effort.
Kathy James
Jan 18, 2015 Kathy James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a charming story with quirky characters and an interesting plot. Michael Palin is a very nice writer!
Jul 19, 2014 Cassandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Irgendwann macht die Modernisierung auch vor einem ländlichen Post-Office nicht halt. Diese Erfahrung muss auch Martin machen, Postler aus Überzeugung, der unsanft aus seinem Dornröschenschlaf geweckt wird. Plötzlich sieht er sich Intrigen gegenüber und nichts bleibt, wie es einmal war und zu allem Übel taucht da auch noch diese Amerikanerin auf, die auch auf der Jagd nach Hemingway-Schätzen ist.

Wo Michael Palin auf dem Cover steht, sollte man nicht automatisch Monty-Python erwarten. Der Humor i
Walter Van praag
Jun 04, 2015 Walter Van praag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is one quirky book! Fun to read, not heavy or serious, but it does address a current issue, even though the book is quite dated. The demise of the grand post offices that grace most towns and cities is just not viable, and Martin who missed out on a job promotion in the system is very vocal about keeping his town's post office grand and old fashioned like it always was in the past.

his obsession with Hemingway leads him away from his girlfriend and into the influence of a new woman in town.
Jan 22, 2015 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this during a stay in hospital and I found it to be a lovely comforting read and although I wasn't exactly blown away by it, it was easy to sink into. While this story about the mild mannered village post office worker who harbours an obsession with Hemingway wasn't at all life altering as such, I could argue that- for me- in 1 particular way, it was absolutely quite life altering as it directly introduced me to Hemingway. Immediately after reading this book, and because of this book, I r ...more
Aug 22, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was written by Michael Palin, people. Even if this book sucked, I would have given it 4 stars.
Feb 18, 2014 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not what I expected from Michael Palin. It's not particularly funny although it has it's ironic and satiric moments. I found it particularly poignant as it is about the privatization and change in the British post office and we are fighting cuts in service in Fulford's post office at the moment. The unifying theme is the protagonist's obsession with Ernest Hemingway and I expect I missed some allusions as I am not very well informed about his life, but there is enough explanation to make it ...more
Oct 09, 2012 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leveraging only the greatest ecological scientific minds currently on staff, a series of multiple choice questions have been carefully prepared in order to absolutely determine which Catholic Pope you most resemble. Let's delve, shall we:


1. St. Finian Lobhar's third favourite Barbra Streisand Album was:

a. The Barbra Streisand Album
b. The Second Barbra Streisand Album
c. My Name is Barbra
d. My Name is Barbra, Two
e. Color me Barbra
f. Je m'appelle Barbra
g. Simply Streisand
h. Barbra Streisa
Jan 24, 2013 Lidija rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before started reading the book, I was told that, even though it was written by Michael Palin, it didn't have much of that Monty Python humor we would all, kind of, expect to find in it. And even though I "knew" it, I was still, maybe even subconsciously, looking for it. It turned out that I didn't even have to try so hard. Because it is there. Of course it is there. I mean, it is Michael Palin. And no matter what he talks about or writes about, he has it in him. It is part of him. And - that is ...more
Jun 07, 2008 Tim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like M. Palin's endeavors outside of M Python
Michael Palin manages to weave together 3 or 4 themes that center around a new postal system in Britain. The village post office where the protaganist has worked is the center of village culture as the townspeople meet and speak regularly while collecting their mail and posting the outgoing. A new manager comes to town with the mandate to oversee the replacement of the old post office with a new and efficient one designed to get people in and out much faster, in air conditioned comfort (and with ...more
Denisa Howe
I am still not sure if I really liked this book or not. At times I felt I was caught within Martin’s own mind and he was talking to himself. He truly is Hemingway number one fan… to many lengths in his life. I did enjoy the characters that were introduced to me. They were all true to life and normal personalities. A new boss arrives and takes the job Martin thought he was going to advance to…and he has his eye on Martin’s girl and even seeks out a friendship with Martin. This friendship puts in ...more
Ian Wood
Feb 12, 2008 Ian Wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: monty-python
Michael Palin’s career from ‘Monty Python’ through ‘Ripping Yarns’ to globe trotter and TV presenter of ‘Around the World’ and ‘Pole to Pole’ laid no groundwork to prepare the reader for his debut comic novel ‘Hemingway’s Chair’.
Written in 1995 but still relevant today ‘Hemingway’s Chair’ tells the story of Martin Sproale, Assistant Post Master of Theston Post Office and what befalls him when on the retirement of the Post Master rather than be promoted is usurped by a Manager sent from head offi
Jun 11, 2011 LG rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spam lovers
Palin was one of a hundred authors who participated in Dubai’s third annual International Festival of Literature in March. Best known as one of the cockney comedians of Monty Python, he went on to find fame as a traveler and writer. This novel’s title takes its name from his visit to Havana. I read it years and years ago, so, to be honest, I haven’t the foggiest what it’s about anymore – only that the chair is a legendary one that Ernest Hemingway (an even more famous writer) allegedly sat on in ...more
Nov 14, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Michael Palin can almost do no wrong, especially when it comes to comedy, acting, and travel writing; and in many ways this novel is a decent addition to his long and impressive resume, but it does not reach the level of enjoyment I have experienced from his other offerings. It is not bad by any measure, but just not as quirky or funny as I was expecting it to be, possibly an unfair expectation. I thought it would be more witty, but it is a nice domestic tale of obsession. He did an impressive b ...more
Nov 23, 2015 Margarita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Palin makes his readers fall in love with this community. Although the overall story isn't especially clever or imaginative, it's light and inviting and charmingly humourous. Be forewarned it does take a bit of a darker humoured turn toward the end. This book is best described as a comfort read. It's exactly perfect for a rainy afternoon, cozy under the covers with a hot cup of tea.
Dec 07, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A fun read. Michael Palin is a hoot. I could just see the Monty Python movie in this. The ending was a little less than satisfactory, but not enough to spoil it for this reader. A mild mannered British postal clerk, Martin Sproale, who is enamored with all things Earnest Hemingway, gets pushed into retaliating against the bureaucrat that forced him out of his beloved position with the British Mail. Most of it deals with the lead up to his being forced out, and only gets to the revenge towards th ...more
Chris Holdsworth
Feb 17, 2016 Chris Holdsworth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Palin's first novel is a real page-turner. A fictional story inspired by Hemingway's real-world triumphs and tragedies, as seen through the eyes of characters that this reader found relatable (though a tad one-dimensional at times). Still, thoroughly immersing and enjoyable - didn't want to put it down and couldn't wait to pick it up!
Jun 10, 2016 Pammy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Picked this one up in a dollar bin, since I had an infatuation with Hemingway from the time I devoured "A Farwell To Arms" in Junior High.
The book was full of trivia on "Papa", and if your intent is to absorb obscure details for the next Trivia at your local bar, well, you have found an excellent resource.
Jan 09, 2011 D'face rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Going Postal' was one of Terry Pratchett's best books and this novel by comedian and travel writer Micahel Palin is also set in the Post Office. It tells the story of a man trying to save his post office from privatization. Martin is a post office employee and a Hemingway fan who collects Hemingway memorabilia. His life intersects with three women, the woman he works with who wants to marry him and get him out of the post office and into her family business, a Hemingway scholar writing a book o ...more
Jul 03, 2015 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful book about a small-town British postal worker obsessed with Ernest Hemingway. Light read, charming. And did I mention it was written by Michael Palin? Actually made me want to try reading something by Ernest Hemingway--which I realized I don't think I have....
Mar 27, 2015 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 3.5 star book in my opinion, largely let down by its final 25% in that it seemed to lose its way and not know how to end. That being said, the gently comic observations of smalltown English locales and people overcomes the absence of a strong plot and makes for an engaging read otherwise.
Nov 16, 2014 Kelv rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Michael Edward Palin, CBE, is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries.

Palin wrote most of his material with Terry Jones. Before Monty Python, they had worked on other shows such as The Ken Dodd Show, The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set. Palin appeared in some of the
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