Stephen's Reviews > The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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May 16, 12

bookshelves: audiobook, 6-star-books, all-time-favorites, easton-press, classics-americas, water-logged, 1930-1953, novellas, life-changers, literature
Read from October 29 to 31, 2010 — I own a copy

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My very first time reading Papa and I absolutely LOVED IT. Sometimes the experience you have with a book can be effected by many things beyond the narrative itself, and I think that is certainly the case here. While I believe I would have loved this story regardless, there is no doubt that the stars aligned themselves perfectly to make this a singularly special read for me.

Let me explain...

Last year, I was in Napa with my wife and two of our best friends celebrating my (oh shit!!) 40th birthday. It was the latter part of October (near the end of harvest time) and the weather was perfect...DUH, it’s Napa.

We were staying at our favorite Napa sanctuary, the Villagio Inn and Spa.
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Though pricey, Vellagio is just about perfect, it's centrally located, with wonderful rooms, and one of the BEST breakfast spreads in the world...Hey, when you are going out drinking all day, it is important to load up on foodstuffs to avoid alcohol-related trouble. have a nice big breakfast before you go out and drink all day...it is called being practical.

Speaking of drinking all day, we had just come back from an awesome tour of the Castle di Amarossa Winery which is, I shit you not, a real castle in the middle of Napa, California...
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…complete with MEGA DINING HALL
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...and a TORTURE CHAMBER…..yep, a rack, an Iron Maiden and some device that made me constipated just looking at it.

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Anyway, we got back to the room and had a few hours to relax before a late dinner reservation. Well, I don’t sleep all that much and so, while my wife took a nap (light weight that she is), I decided I would find something fairly short to read. I choose this story because it was only 100 pages long (or just under 3 hours via audio) and it seemed to fit my time allotment perfectly.

So, feeling a little buzzed and in a superb, yet contemplative mood (I had just turned 40 for crying out loud), I poured myself another glass of wine (shut up and don't judge me), went and sat on the balcony outside our room and, with the sun starting to go down, began listening to the audio version of this story.

Well, this story slammed me and had me sucked in and captive from the very first words: “He was the old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” By the way, now would be a good time to mention that the audio version I listened to was read by Donald Sutherland, and the marriage of the story with Sutherland’s perfect narration was nothing short of magical. In my opinion it is THE ONLY VERSION of the audio book that should be sold. 



As many have said (and almost as many have complained), this is in many ways a simple story about an old Cuban fisherman named Santiago, who has had a significant run of bad luck fishing (i.e., 84 days). "Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the 
same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated." Attempting to change his luck, he decides to take his skiff further out than he has ever gone before, "beyond all the people of the world." Eventually, he lands the largest Marlin he's ever seen and the bulk of the narrative details his epic struggle to reel in the fish and get it back to shore. 



Yes, a simple story and Hemingway uses sparse, straight-forward prose...and devastates with them. The most powerful emotions, passions and struggles that people experience are often tied to the most basic needs and the most elemental aspects of who they are. I felt an immediate connection to the story and was deeply moved by the restrained, yet palpable power of the narrative.

The most lasting message that I took away from the story was that, despite the many hardships Santiago faces, and the titanic trials that he endures on the open sea, I NEVER ONCE felt that I was supposed to pity or feel sorry for him in any way. Here was a person doing what he loves to do, what gives him purpose in life, and struggling with an iron will to accomplish his goal. The struggle is hard, it is difficult, but it is who he is and what gives him fulfillment in life. All I could feel was giant admiration for this man.

I found this uplifting and a powerful reaffirmation of what is truly important in life. "But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed 
but not defeated."

Whether it was the setting I was in, the mood I was in, the wine I was drinking, the wonderful narration or the power of the words themselves, in the end the result was the same. I felt ALIVE, and for that I say thank you “Papa” wherever you are!!! 


That is basically it, but I wanted to leave you with my favorite line from the story, one that I think encapsulates everything Hemingway set out to accomplish in his tale. "And what beat you, he thought. 'Nothing,' he said aloud. 
'I went out too far.'"

5.0 stars and one of my “All Time" favorites. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!
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Comments (showing 15-64)





message 64: by K.D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

K.D. Absolutely Perfect review. Makes me want to read this again!


message 63: by Natalie (last edited Apr 21, 2011 06:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Natalie I learned the other day that in '52-'53? one of my Dad's tasks as a young journalist for a midwest newspaper was to do a book review for The Old Man and the Sea which was first published in LIFE magazine before it was published in book format.

In 1952, LIFE sent photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt to Cuba to shoot author Ernest Hemingway for photos to show alongside the novella that would run in LIFE.

Through the link above you'll be taken to a gallery of Eisenstaedt's previously unpublished pictures from that trip.

Eisenstaedt would refer to the experience of shooting Hemingway as his most difficult assignment ever, reading the captions you'll find out why!

What you'll see in the photos are the fishermen, their boats, and Hemingway in Cuba.


Kevin Xu Hemingway is better in writing short fiction. I loved this book, and hated all of his longer books.


Kevin Xu Did you know that Robert Jordan was actually the main character of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls?


TK421 Hands-down my favorite book of all time. I first read this in an advanced English class in high school. It was at a private Catholic school were my teacher really highlighted the Christ-like imagery. It still amazes me when I think about it. I try to reread it every year. Great review, Stephen.


Stephen Brian wrote: "A definite "Like" for the review (actually, I think this is my favorite review of yours). The book wasn't my cup of tea, but I might well feel differently if I read it under the same circumstances ..."

Who knows...maybe even Twilight would have gotten at least 3 stars that day.


message 58: by mark (new)

mark monday i also like to combine fine dining & torture. i love it when hobbies come together like that!


Stephen mark wrote: "i also like to combine fine dining & torture. i love it when hobbies come together like that!"

Like chocolate and caramel.


message 56: by mark (new)

mark monday two great tastes, tasting great together!


Natalie @Brian The librarian at the paper is doing an archives search for it, hopefully she'll find it!

Brian wrote: "Can you post his review? I would love to read it! "


Fidias I think that when you read another Hemingway novel, you will give this one only two stars.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I can't actually review this tedious twaddle because GoodReads doesn't have a little minus sign to put in front of the stars, which would be necessary to convey my distaste and dislike for it.


Jeffrey Keeten They bought that castle in Europe and rebuilt it brick by brick if I remember right. I even bought some wine for the road from Castle di Amarossa Winery. We were in Napa two summers ago. Did you do the Wine Train?


message 51: by Hend (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hend I Can't Wait to Read it!!!


message 50: by Ryan (new)

Ryan I have been meaning to pick this up.


Stephen Richard wrote: "I can't actually review this tedious twaddle because GoodReads doesn't have a little minus sign to put in front of the stars, which would be necessary to convey my distaste and dislike for it."

I'd say you just did a very concise, efficient job of conveying your distate for it. Apropos for a Hemingway.


Stephen Jeffrey wrote: "They bought that castle in Europe and rebuilt it brick by brick if I remember right. I even bought some wine for the road from Castle di Amarossa Winery. We were in Napa two summers ago. Did you ..."

Your memory serves you well regarding the castle's construction. We didn't do the wine train on our most recent trip, but I've been to Napa about a dozen times and have taken the train a few times.


Stephen Ryan wrote: "I have been meaning to pick this up."

I hope it is something you like. Opinion on this is varied, but I loved it.


Stephen Hend wrote: "I Can't Wait to Read it!!!"

I really hope you enjoy it, Hend.


message 45: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Great review Stephen! When my parents were in town at the beginning of May, we did the Ernest Hemingway tour of the museum and his birth house in Oak Park, IL. I found him to be quite a colorful and interesting person.


Stephen Thanks, Kate. The museum sounds interesting. I will have to remember that if we're ever in the area.


message 43: by Sally (new)

Sally I haven't read this since the 8th grade, and now my interest In rereading it (especially in the audiobook) is heightened! I commute for 75 minutes a day, so could definitely squeeze it in! Won't have the ambiance that you had, but may still be worth it!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "I'd say you just did a very concise, efficient job of conveying your distate for it. Apropos for a Hemingway."

...would he...no, really, he wouldn't...Stephen would *never* compare me to *Hemingway*...no, no...can't be.


message 41: by Stephen (last edited May 16, 2012 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen Richard wrote: "Stephen wrote: "I'd say you just did a very concise, efficient job of conveying your distate for it. Apropos for a Hemingway."

...would he...no, really, he wouldn't...Stephen would *never* compare..."


Only in the best, most complimentary way, my Goodreads "Papa."


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Heh. I shall take it as a compliment, then.


Stephen You most definitely should.


message 38: by Anne (Booklady) (last edited May 16, 2012 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Wonderful review, Stephen! I love, love, love this book. My heart needs a lift and a re-read of OMATS will surely take away the sting of an idiot who said I am a bigot after reading one my reviews on GR. :( Too bad some people can't disagree with a reviewer's opinion without insulting them.


Kristen (Peddler of Smut) I loved this book too! You make me want to pull out my beat-up copy and read this book again. Fantastic review!


message 36: by Richard (last edited May 16, 2012 06:31PM) (new)

Richard Stephen, I am SO CONFUSED! You love this book. That much is obvious. Bird Brian hates it, and makes no effort to conceal his animosity and aggravation:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

The A and A are even more in your face if you listen to the audio version of his review.

I've eyeballed/eardrummed both your reviews and enjoyed them both. How do I reconcile my newly conflicting loyalties without making an enemy out of one of you??? *sob*


Stephen Richard...as you can tell if you look at the comments above, one of my best friends on GR (the other Richard) won't even review this book because he can't give it negative stars. He loathed it, along with everything Hemingway ever did. You would certainly have some wonderful company if you ended up hating it as well.

For me, I'd only recommend you give it a try...so you can see how right I am. :)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Richard wrote: "Stephen, I am SO CONFUSED! You love this book. That much is obvious. Bird Brian hates it, and makes no effort to conceal his animosity and aggravation:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/......"


If it's news to you, Richard, after Bird Brian's nasty and mean-spirited attack on Stephen a while back, Bird Brian set his profile info and reviews to "private" so he wouldn't have any more people Ruining GoodReads for him. (Those were his words, not mine, though I admit that I capitalized them to make them more sarcastic.)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "For me, I'd only recommend you give it a try...so you can see how right I am. :)"

I will bet that, if you read it again today, you would not like it near as much as you did the first time.


message 32: by Richard (new)

Richard Stephen wrote: "Richard...as you can tell if you look at the comments above, one of my best friends on GR (the other Richard) won't even review this book because he can't give it negative stars. He loathed it, alo..."

I have actually read it, but it's not on my "read" shelf. It's printed in one volume with two other short novels of his, one of which I have yet to read. For myself, I thought it had its good points: simplicity of character and plot (view spoiler). But I can't that it filled me with optimism.


Stephen I concede that you may be right, sir. I don't think I will risk the memory any time soon.


message 30: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Great book. Loved it! Read it numerous times!


message 29: by John (new)

John Have you read any other Hemingway? I read A Farewell to Arms quite a few years ago, it's pretty good.

BTW, I'm 45 minutes from the Napa Valley, though I've never toured Castle di Amarossa Winery. A nice reminder that I need to go at some point.


Stephen I have not read any other Hemingway yet, John, but A Farewell to Arms is the next one I will read.

The castle is very cool if you get a chance to see it.


message 27: by Gary (last edited May 16, 2012 08:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary A Farewell to Arms is wonderful.See the old movie in Black and white with Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper, after you have read it.


Stephen Thanks, Gary. I certainly will.


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo John wrote: "Have you read any other Hemingway? I read A Farewell to Arms quite a few years ago, it's pretty good.

BTW, I'm 45 minutes from the Napa Valley, though I've never toured Castle di Amarossa Winery..."


Hello John,
After The Old Man and the Sea. my favorite Hemingway book is For Whom the Bell Tolls.


message 24: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Stephen, start with FAREWELL TO ARMS and THE SUN ALSO RISES first, before you tackle FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. Take it from someone that knows.

Also, get a copy of THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, the Finca Vigia edition.....his short stories are great. Try GOD REST YOU MERRY, GENTLEMEN. All the stories are great in there.


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo The Nick Adams are great, Stephen. I love The Sun Also Rises, a 5 Star read. This coming from a true Hemingway fan and aficionado.


message 22: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I am also a true Hemingway fan and aficionado.


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Gary wrote: "I am also a true Hemingway fan and aficionado."

Sir, you truly have great taste.


message 20: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Well, thanks! You too, Anne!


message 19: by Nandakishore (last edited May 16, 2012 09:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nandakishore Varma One of my all-time personal favourites, Stephen. I share your feelings for the book. My favourite line is the last line: "The old man was dreaming about the lions again."


Stephen Glad to hear it, Nandakishore. I agree with you on the beauty of that last line.


message 17: by Leon (new) - added it

Leon Aldrich Ah oh. I have yet to read any Hemingway.


message 16: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary OMG.....Leon....start with this one,and go from there!
You must, you must , you must improve your Hemingway experience.....


Stephen Leon...I hope you enjoy this if you decide to take the plunge.


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