I’ve been mulling this over for what seems like ages. I thought about abandoning a review altogether and just writing a two sentence long entry, homage to Hemingway, but that would have been lazy.
Thing is, I found this book difficult to digest.
After Paulo Coelho, considering they both have different styles of expressing symbolism and life lessons, this is certainly refreshing. It’s a short book, there isn’t much going on, but comparing the two, The Old Man and the Sea has more to offer than The Devil and Miss Prym.
Here’s my take on the book: Going down a list of things that make a good book, this one is a winner. Coherent plot, perfectly-set pacing, diligent scene illustration, three dimensional character(s?), and most importantly symbolism that doesn’t come off as trying hard. It’s simple and to-the-point, but there’s more to it than let on. There’s more to extrapolate, and there’s room for the reader upon which they can reflect their own emotions. However, while reading this, from beginning to end, I was bereft of all sorts of feelings.
It’s about Santiago overcoming all the obstacles after almost believing he’s doomed to failure. He persists and perseveres, compromising what his own body needs and blindly fighting off whatever gets in his way. Even though in the end he hardly had anything to show for it, winning in the conventional sense was not his end goal. He wanted to feel alive and competent. Catching the fish was irrelevant. Looking at the bigger picture, this is about life as a whole.
Overall, I get what the book was getting at, and I saw the events and characters as if they were real, but emotionally I had no connection whatsoever. Quick pacing and short sentences, it felt automated.
The tip of the iceberg is a method that works for many readers, but not for me. Give me details. Give me a profound psychological analysis of every single one of those details. Mostly I avoid minimalist authors but I have a few exceptions. Sometimes minimalism is absolutely imperative, Kurt Vonnegut is a good example of this, but if I had to choose, I’d go for authors that dig deep.
Admittedly, The Old Man and the Sea is a book I would recommend and always talk about as an example for perfect writing, but wouldn’t want to read it again. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s an above average experience, and a nice little gateway to more Hemingway.