I have no idea what to say about this book. On the one hand, it is about an old fisherman from Havana who has spent many months unable to hook a fish, and then when he finally does, the fish is so big that it takes days to conquer. On the other, the book isn’t really about the fish, or the struggle, or the losses that come afterwards. It’s about persistence, and friendship, and communion with the things around us.
The first time I heard of this book was in high school, when my cousin told me she’d read this based on her father’s recommendation. She did not like the book at all, thought it was very boring, and advised that I never try it. In 2001, I decided to give it a chance, and to my surprise, I loved it! The style is simple and repetitive, but never in a way I found boring. I was riveted to the old man’s story, and felt like I was reading two different books – a literal story of a fishing adventure, and a metaphorical spiritual journey.
Since that first read, I’ve read this book multiple times, once every few years. I’ve read other Hemingway, and while I’ve liked some, this remains my favorite. It’s a book that I get something new out of every time I read it, especially as I age.
It has been quite awhile since I last read it, and I’ve felt the urge to reread several times in the last two years, but hadn’t gotten around to it (too many books!). A few weeks ago, a sample of the audiobook popped up on my social media radar. Now, I love audiobooks, but I generally don’t listen to audiobooks of those novels I’ve read multiple times. Those books already have a soundtrack in my head. The characters speak with certain inflections in my head, and with a certain rhythm, and I don’t want to listen to anyone else’s interpretation of the book. But the narrator of this audiobook is Donald Sutherland, and I knew right away that he would be the perfect narrator. I listened to the audio sample, which confirmed my thoughts, and then checked out the audiobook from my library.
It was everything I’d hoped for. Sutherland was indeed perfect for the audiobook, and the novel was just as beautiful and profound as I remembered. I wish I could say more on the beautiful and profound bits, but I’ve read the book so many times that it’s very difficult to capture all my hundreds of thoughts on it, and from what I can tell, it seems to be one of those books that some people love and some just don’t get. I’ve read other Hemingway that I just don’t get, so I can understand that, but it makes reviewing this book even more difficult.
So I won’t, not really. I love this book. It’s great. The audiobook was just as great. There. Reviewed. 😀
Note: Originally read in 2001.