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Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  1,552 Ratings  ·  273 Reviews
From a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, a brilliantly conceived and illuminating reconsideration of a key period in the life of Ernest Hemingway that will forever change the way he is perceived and understood.

Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961—from Hemingway’s pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide—Paul Hendrickson traces the write
Hardcover, 534 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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John Arfwedson
Dec 01, 2011 John Arfwedson rated it it was amazing
What a book! Hendrickson takes the quirky view that writing a (kind of) biography of Hemingway using the old man's love of his boat, the Pilar, and everything it connects him to will work. It does, in fascinating and unpredictable ways. PH writes, on every page, with an urgency that fully catches you up in his obsession. And he IS obsessed, just as much as Santiago is in "The Old Man and the Sea" to get that big fish back to shore.

PH's research is not merely relentless, it is joyful, and it is
Lewis Weinstein
First impression ... "Hemingway's Boat" is a wonderful combination of Hemingway gossip and Hemingway writing.

Unfortunately, this view was not sustained as I continued reading. After about 100 pages, my enthusiasm began to wane.

There is much repetition and a confusing lack of focus. The timeline and cast of characters has become very jumbled. I have the sense the author has lost control of the material and is just pumping out everything he knows. Yet, every once in a while there is a fascinating
M. Sarki
Oct 22, 2011 M. Sarki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-wonders

Paul Hendrickson has written a new biography of Ernest Hemingway titled Hemingway’s Boat meant to fully, if not super-fully, appreciate the "myth-swallowed" life of this man. The biography is presented in a scientific, almost astronomical, technique known as "averted vision" and is described by Hendrickson as an idea that "sometimes you can see the essence of a thing more clearly if you are not looking at it directly." In telling stories of lesser known ch
Dec 31, 2011 Ken rated it it was amazing
Hemingway's life has been chronicled six ways to Sunday but Paul Hendrickson takes a different tack by telling it through the angle of EH's boat, the Pilar. This means we're talking the last 27 years of Hem's life and clocking a lot of hours on the Gulf Stream.

The sub-heading of the book is "Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961" and it's appropriate because EH loved life a tad more intensely than your average Joe and he got around, from the cafés of Paris to the Gulf Stream off Bimin
Sep 26, 2011 Frederic rated it really liked it
In the fifty years since Hemingway's death there have been many biographies and memoirs and I've read most of them,though I haven't had the time or energy to tackle the five volume Michael Reynolds work which I've heard is extraordinary...those that I've read range from the odious(Lynn)to the competent(Baker)to the superb(on both the man and the work,James R. Mellow)but not one has rendered the man as vividly as "Hemingway's Boat" impressionistic look at the last twenty-seven years of his l ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The silly subtitle aside, this is a compelling story not just of Hemingway and his boat but of cross-generational family tragedy that makes the Kennedy saga look like happily ever after. The divorces, the deaths by suicide, the violent arguments and frequent physical and emotional trauma left one thing clear: You wouldn’t want to be a Hemingway, not by marriage or birth. Hemingway’s Boat is not comprehensive and assumes that its readers know Hemingway’s life and work to some degree, but a strong ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: hemingway
Certainly Hemingway has more than his share of biographers, of critical studies of his life and works, of explorations of his creative processes. Is there really a need for yet another book that digests and interprets his personal and public persona and evaluates his creative production?

Paul Hendrickson’s Hemingway’s Boat is the unequivocal “yes.” Hendrickson approaches Hemingway obliquely, if you will, and, in the process, lets us see Hemingway in some different lights. It is not that he tells
Sep 26, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Why do I love this book? So many reasons, but it comes down to this: it is honest, comprehensive and full of heart. Ernest Hemingway was such a complex man; through an exhaustive study of Pilar, as well as extensive interviews with the people who knew him—both intimately and on the periphery—Hendrickson gives you a greater sense of who he was, warts and all. You learn so much about this man through Hendrickson’s careful research and writing, whether you want to know or not, and it leaves you wit ...more
Mar 01, 2014 Quo rated it really liked it
Paul Hendrickson's wonderful book is less a traditional biography than a sort of non-clinical excavation of the author's psyche, using a wide range of sources, all manner of people who intersected with Hemingway, sometimes only briefly and using Hemingway's boat, the "Pilar", as a metaphor for the author. For example, Hendrickson comments: "No sailboats--the Hemingways were rowboaters and canoeists & stinkpotters. Sailing was a different culture. This fits with the link between the "Pilar", ...more
Buzz Malone
Dec 28, 2012 Buzz Malone rated it it was amazing
For every book ever written by Hemingway, there are twenty that have been written about him. It is brazen and crass to believe that anyone could say anything about the man that hasn't already been said. At least, such was my feeling when I heard about this book. I dismissed it immediately as yet another exploitation of a life already picked apart by countless other scavengers. I even had to feign a smile when I opened the Christmas gift from my mother-in-law and it turned out to be a copy of Hem ...more
Colleen Lynch
Jul 16, 2012 Colleen Lynch rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic, not least because Paul Hendrickson's writing is phenomenal. He is a master researcher, leaves no facts out, and when you find yourself reading a detail you think is superfluous he immediately makes you realize its importance to the overall message of the book. Picked this up in England (with a much better cover, blue - look it up :) ) and it is definitely a big book, but do not be intimidated (as I maybe was at first). I could not put it down. I found myself forcing peri ...more
Robert Lashley
Jan 10, 2012 Robert Lashley rated it did not like it
If there is enough Papa scholarship-which is what Hemingway’s Boat, Paul Hendrickson’s non fiction book, aims to be-to fill a small public library, then lot of shelves would be redundant. There would be no decimal system but wood carved signs splattered in red paint, with disclaimers beneath them that they were written in blood. There would be a “Tragic Artist Madlib ” section ( Carlos Baker, Michael Reynolds, twice), a “Glorified Macho Excursion” section ( Nick Lyons, and sadly, Michael Palin), ...more
Carey Shea
Sep 08, 2012 Carey Shea rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The reason for the 3 stars is that this novel jumped all over the place. It was supposed to be from 1934 to 1961 when Hemingway comminted suicide. He spent plenty of time on Hemingway's childhood. Also, at the beginning there was so much talk about the boat he ordered, where it was built, how they built it, what Hemmingway wanted to add to the boat, etc. Of course, we had to hear about the fishing instuments, where they were made and the different types of lines he used. It was starting to bore ...more
Keenan Johnston
Jul 23, 2013 Keenan Johnston rated it liked it
How can you not want to know more about a guy who described himself as follows:

"Look, I'm 35, I've had a damned fine life, have had every woman I ever wanted, have bred good kids, have seen everything I believe in royally fucked to hell, have been wounded many times, got over all wish for glory or a career before I was 20, have always made a living in all times, staked my friends, written 3 books of stories, 2 novels, a comic book and one fairly exhaustive treatise and every chickenshit prick wh
Bob Mustin
Dec 28, 2011 Bob Mustin rated it really liked it
“You know you love the sea and would not be anywhere else…She is just there and the wind moves her and the current moves her and they fight on her surface but down below none of it matters.”

That’s a segment from Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, repeated in this book on pages 457 and 458, and it sums up Hendrickson’s view of the great American writer. The author’s project here, built somewhat waveringly about his boat, Pilar, is to depict, not the superficial man – the writer, the fisher, big g
Michele Weiner
Oct 20, 2012 Michele Weiner rated it liked it
I have never been an admirer of Ernest Hemingway. I read A Farewell to Arms in high school (as assignment), consigned him to the ranks of authors I didn't care to read again, and never gave him another thought until my various book clubs decided to read The Sun Also Rises, A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife, all in the same year, and then there was Midnight in Paris... My curiosity was piqued. This 20-year-old Hemingway in Paris with his tomboy wife was not the boorish he-man I had expected. He ...more
May 27, 2013 Clare rated it did not like it
This book is a huge disappointment on more than one level.

It promised to be one of those rare (and getting rarer)books into which I could sink for days or even weeks. Unfortunately I was disabused of that notion very quickly.

The idea is good, to explore Hemingway through the ownership of Pilar, his boat but it all falls apart after that.

The book is confusing and fuzzy. The author seems to be operating in opposition to the adage that less is more and repeats himself, well, repeatedly. It meanders
Apr 03, 2013 metaphor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paul-hendrickson
“I remember all these things happening and all the places we lived in and the fine times and the bad times we had in that year,” he once said. “But much more vividly I remember living in the book and making up what happened in it every day. Making the country and the people and the things that happened I was happier than I had ever been.” Living in that book, making the country, a man still so young had written a passage so immortal as this, about a retreat from a place called Caporetto: I was a ...more
Jul 20, 2012 John rated it really liked it
I recently finished this wonderful book by Paul Hendrickson, and thought I'd give it a shout-out here. It's superbly written, excellently researched and one of the best books I've read in years.

This isn't a full-on adventure story of fishing for marlin in the Gulf Stream, though there is some of that. The book traces from 1934 to 1961 Hemingway's joys and despair around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar.

The boat was a stock 38-foot twin cabin cruiser made b
Dec 31, 2011 Valerie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hemingway fans
Shelves: valerie
When I saw this book on a new non-fiction shelf at the library, I couldn't help but be a little curious. Nearly two weeks later, I'm finally through it.
Paul Hendrickson's biography of Ernest Hemingway is as much about EH as it is about his boat, Pilar. Hendrickson has gone a bit further in his research than some other biographers, mainly by digging further into the back stories of some of the people who entered in and out of Hemingway's life. It is evident that this was a labor love for Hendrick
Christian Bauman
Apr 16, 2016 Christian Bauman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does the world need another Hemingway biography. God no. But this isn't a Hemingway biography. This was far better. I found and read this mostly by accident, and I'm so happy I found it. A really unique and cool structure. You do need baseline Hem knowledge before going into this. But if you know the basic stories and myths, then this book will come to life. As much as it is a biography, it's a bio of several things other than Hem the person: of his boat, Pillar; fascinatingly, of some odd and f ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Melinda rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The author has a captivating thesis and purpose: Hemingway's "fishing machine" and the time he spent on it coincided with a change in writing style, and the Pilar should be as closely associated with the author as Babe Ruth was with his Louisville Slugger. That being said, this is one big chunk of detailed and discursive biography and not all of it serves Hendrickson's thesis and purpose. Hendrickson tells several lengthy stories about people who knew Hemingway; these stories slowed down the pac ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Judy rated it liked it
Pilar was the name of Ernest Hemingway's beloved boat and Paul Hendickson organizes his biography of Hemingway during the years 1934 when he was considered one of the kings of American literature until his suicide in 1961 around her. It was on Pilar that Hemingway went to fish, to drink, to entertain, and to be with his children. He also retreated to the Pilar in the bad times--when he was being savaged by critics, when his marriages were deteriorating, and when he saw his creativity draining aw ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Ron rated it it was amazing
An incredibly good read! So well written. If you are a Hemingway fan or just want to know more about the tangled, troubled, gifted life of this man, I heartily recommend it! From Amazon:Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961—from Hemingway’s pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide—Paul Hendrickson traces the writer's exultations and despair around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar.

Drawing on previously unpublished material, includin
John Stepper
Dec 27, 2011 John Stepper rated it really liked it
This book is a remarkable achievement. Despite the surfeit of Hemingway biographies, the author manages to make the material seem fresh and new by taking oblique angles of the story and expanding on them.

I love much of what Hemingway wrote and, after reading this book and learning of the many parallels between fact and fiction, I appreciate Hemingway's work in a different, richer way.

The author's penchant for detail and accuracy is remarkable. Seem of the more psycho-analytical perspectives and
James Huston
Jan 05, 2012 James Huston rated it liked it
I have read most of Hemingway’s fiction. Not all of it, but most of it. I love his writing. At its best it may be the best writing in America in the 20th Century. But even though I have read most of his writing I didn’t know that much about him as a person. I knew the public persona, the tough guy big-game-hunting Cuba and Key West living drinking ambulance driving fisherman. But I had never read a biography of him. Still haven’t. I did though just finish Hemingway’s Boat, Everything He Loved An ...more
Kevin Neilson
Oct 16, 2012 Kevin Neilson rated it liked it
Like most biographies, this is too long and full of details the reader could care less about with some sections more appropriate for a master's thesis. That said, there were parts that were really enjoyable. If only editors would do their jobs! Somebody should've told Paul that although the story of a kid who spent a year on Hemingway's boat at age 20 is relevant, the relevancy stops as soon as he leaves the boat. The story of the rest of his 45 years, in which he never saw Ernest again, is of n ...more
David Guy
Aug 21, 2012 David Guy rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Hemingway's work, three biographies, various memoirs, but this is the most interesting book on Hemingway I've read. It isn't really a biography, and isn't meant as one, but it basically covers his whole life, though it ostensibly begins when he bought his bought his boat Pilar. Hendrickson is content to follow some interesting byways, including the lives of various people who only knew Hemingway briefly. What I love most about this book is that, while it doesn't neglect Heming ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Baris rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Papa nerds
Shelves: tez
3.5 stars.... The first half is fantastic and it makes the book worth-checking out. Especially the sections, where the writer focuses on Hemingway's years in Key West and fishing expeditions makes the book extremely valuable for Hemingway (and fishing) nerds. Yet I do not know why, but after wonderful sets of stories on the conditions in which Hemingway produced the Green Hills of Africa in his Florida home, Hendrickson fasts-forward to early 1950s skipping his third marriage and more importantl ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Dianne rated it it was ok
Recommended to Dianne by: book review
While it is clear that Paul Hendrickson has done loads of research on Ernest Hemingway, he was unable translate that research into a cohesive unit for this book. While he says that he used Hemingway's boat, Pilar, as the binding unit that drove the book, I just couldn't see it. There was so much rambling and countless times in which I became confused because of the shifting of time lines. Yet, through all of this confusion, the author did manage to aid the reader in understanding the complex cha ...more
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