Book Review: The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway


The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal — a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

If this would have been Hemingway’s only published book, it would would still have been enough to earn him the Nobel prize.

“It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin he thought.”

Hope. That double-edged sword, the source of our power, the reason behind so many of our sorrows. Hope. It is truly silly not to hope, not to dream of Heaven even when walking through Hell.

This novella is the kind of story that everyone should read. When they’ve lost hope, when they’re feeling down, defeated, tired, lonely. Because it is a silly thing not to hope, and without hope, we have nothing at all. We are nothing at all.

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

I adore this short book more than I can put into words. And I am afraid that no amount of praise can do it justice. Cynics will say that it’s too sentimental, but it is a well known truth that cynics know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

This novella is one of the few pieces of literature that I consider to be perfect. There’s nothing to change, to add, to remove. It is perfect, as it is, and it’s Hemingway’s masterpiece.

On writing, he’d say that “For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

When he wrote The Old Man and The Sea he got very, very lucky.

If you have a heart, then you should read this book. That’s all.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    1. Like you, I have read 3 of Hemingway’s novels and struggled to get through them because of the style of writing, more than the content of the story. BUT I enjoyed reading his autobiographical account of his early days of living in Paris as a struggling writer – A Moveable Feast. Maybe give that one a try. My wife had to read The Old Man and the Sea at school and hated it. With Hemingway you either love him or hate him. Check out my recent blog post about A Moveable Feast.


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