Stan's Reviews > The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway
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Jul 22, 2009

did not like it
Read in June, 2009

** spoiler alert ** I'd never read Hemingway before this book. In fact, I haven't read him since (though it has only been a couple of months, at present, since I read "Garden"). Truth be told, while the book is on my "Read" shelf, I didn't get around to finishing it. No, actually, I actively *stopped* reading it, only a few chapters in.

I picked the book up thinking to read one of the classic masters of literature. Indeed, Hemingway is a very skilled author, in my estimation. His attention to detail is stunning, and almost a fault (please, I really don't need to know everything this young couple had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

The dialogue was simple, but elegant--almost like a good stage play, as it were, and definitely a contrast to Orson Scott Card's more "here and now" speech. That made it easy to get lost in the world of the book, because it really did have the feel of a place to escape to. And isn't that often the point of reading fiction?

In any case, I stopped reading "Garden of Eden" not because the writing was poor (though I never got far enough to discern any real plot)--quite the contrary, the writing was excellent. No, I stopped reading because to me, this was literary porn.

The story is about newlyweds who are honeymooning in Southern Europe. The wife (most frequently referred to as "The Girl," at least in the chapters I got through) has some very left-field ideas about romantic love. She, essentially, wants to take the male role in the marriage--or at least in bed--and tries persuading her new husband to play the female. She straight out tells him, "No, *you* are Kate. I am Peter." (at least, I think she said Peter; I've forgotten.) Though Hemingway doesn't get hard-core graphic, he leaves little to the imagination at times (yes, Kate has breasts; thank you for reminding us that adult women are thus equipped). By the time I quit, things really looked to be taking a rather kinky bent, as the husband, willing to please his wife, despite the inherent strangeness of her behaviour, begins surrendering his manhood (the back cover actually speak of him trying to recover it; I'm sure that figures into plot tension later on). Kate, "The Girl" really seemed eager to explore the role reversal, and Hemingway didn't seem too shy about filling the reader in on how she planned to go about doing that.

I'm sure the book makes some very interesting social commentary on gender roles, but I guess I'll never know.

Perhaps my judgment is hasty, because I only got three or four chapters into the book? But then, I'm reading it with my set of morals, and the book offended them enough that I'd rather just not finish it, and recognise that I have, more or less, judged a book by its cover.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Dale Jr. It's a shame you never finished. It was a good read, though it was probably not the best choice for your first walk into Hemingway's world. This book was published after his death and has been severely cut by the publishers and never (I assume) completely finished by Hemingway. I would suggest either diving into one of his better known novels or pick up the collection of short stories.


message 2: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan Dale,

Thanks for the thoughts. I'm sure it was a good read in general. Hemingway is an immensely skilled author and I'm certain he earned his place amongst the classic literary giants.

The short stories, yes, might be a better idea. I tried "For whom the bell tolls," and didn't make it through that one, either. Maybe I'm spoiled by our 21st Century mindset, but frankly, I just didn't care about the characters, the plot, or the book as a whole. I'm sure there are great lessons about humanity in it, but I just didn't care to muddle through the book enough to find them.


Dale Jr. I've found that Hemingway's novels (and the characters within) become deeper and more fleshed out as the story progresses. This is especially evident in Garden of Eden. The story starts slow and the characters begin showing little, but they soon begin to become more complex and deeper.

I've come to the realization that people either love Hem or don't. A close friend of mine absolutely detests him and says, "He never gets deep." I disagree with her, but I love Hem's writing. I'm a bit biased.

Try the short story collection. Just remember that Hem likes to write about simple occurences in life, but there is always something deeper there within the character and moment. Sometimes Hem doesn't reveal exactly what it is. This is frustrating to some...I kind of like it.


message 4: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan Well, we all have our preferences. I don't hate Hemingway, per se, but I guess I just have very different preferences for reading.

For instance, I read the first Twilight book just to see if it were worth the hype. My conclusion? No. And yet, 100 million copies worldwide sold speaks volumes for the popularity of the books.

Maybe one day I'll have even 1/10th of Hemingway's skill. When I do reach that point (or beyond), I'll be writing something very different.

Thanks for your perspective, though. I may yet give the man another try. Third time's the charm, and all that. ;)


Dale Jr. "For instance, I read the first Twilight book just to see if it were worth the hype. My conclusion? No. And yet, 100 million copies worldwide sold speaks volumes for the popularity of the books."

I can't bring myself to read that. I've far too many books I actually want to read without wasting my time on stuff like that. So, I salute your fairness.

As for the number of copies sold:

"Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste." ~Bukowski


message 6: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan In thinking more about your second comment, I should add that character depth, while nice, isn't always a "make or break" for me when I'm reading. I had no problem with the level of depth I saw in Hemingway's characters, either in The Garden of Eden or in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

I just didn't enjoy reading them. Nothing held me (and then there were the other issues I mentioned about TGoE). I decided I wanted to do something else with my time. *Shrug*


message 7: by Stan (last edited Aug 11, 2012 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan Dale: Bukowski is right, sad as that may be. I don't judge the worth of a book on its sales. As an author, though, I hope to get some pretty good sales myself as I roll out more books.

Still, sales are only a dollar value. Hemingway, Twain, Carroll, Dickens, Tolkien, Asimov, heck, even Pratchett--those guys (and many others) will be around for a long time. Twilight will come and go.

Thankfully, I've read some pretty darn good books that also sell well and are tasteful (Eddings, Card, McKinley, Wells, Sanderson), and I'm working to put myself in the realm of "tasteful *and* popular," instead of just "girl fad."

Ironically, as someone who writes fiction, most of my reading is non-fiction. Go figure. ;)


message 8: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan By the way: Milton's "Paradise Lost" is one of the few books I gave 5 stars to, even though it's an even more difficult read than Hemingway. Milton's world fascinated me. :)


Dale Jr. Stan wrote: "By the way: Milton's "Paradise Lost" is one of the few books I gave 5 stars to, even though it's an even more difficult read than Hemingway. Milton's world fascinated me. :)"

Did you read the version with Durer's engravings in it?


message 10: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan Dale,

Unfortunately I only read an online version with poor formatting. I guess I'm just another ignorant savage. ;)


message 11: by Dale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dale Jr. I actually obtained two copies of it with Durer's engravings. Beautiful books. I would suggest finding one sometime as Durer's images mesh so well with Dante's words.


message 12: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan My Alma Mater's library would probably have it. Thanks for the reference. I'll have to keep that in mind.

Man... if I could write like Milton, I might never sell a single book. But I'd be *very* pleased with myself. :)


message 13: by Adam (new)

Adam Smusch "I'm reading it with my set of morals, and the book offended them enough that I'd rather just not finish it"

Maybe you should finish the book so that you can better understand your own morals. Assuming that it is the gender role reversal that is what drove you away,


message 14: by Omar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Omar Qureshi This review is a disgrace. You've read less than 10 percent of the book and stopped for puritanical reasons.


message 15: by Stan (new) - rated it 1 star

Stan Crowe Adam: I have a pretty good understanding of my morals, thanks.

Omar: I do believe I pointed out (quite clearly) that I intentionally judged a book by a small fraction of it. Considering that many people *do* judge books quite literally by their covers, I feel no regret that I didn't give the book more of a chance.

My reasons are my own. I've no need to justify them to anyone.


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