Thursday, July 11, 2019

Book Review - The Old Man and the Sea

I've been having a hard time deciding what to say about The Old Man and the Sea. I had long heard it described as a masterpiece and a sweeping tale about human suffering and perseverance but I knew very little about the plot or the concept. I think part of me was expecting something like Moby Dick. Which may explain why when I finally picked it up, I was rather surprised to find myself holding a very slim paperback of just over 100 pages.

The plot is very simple. An old fisherman has been having a string of bad luck with no catches. He climbs into his boat and tries to improve his luck by venturing out farther than he has recently. Initially he's worried that his bad luck will continue but then he gets a bite. But it's so much more than a bit. He has hooked an immense fish that leads him around the ocean on a relentless struggle.

The writing is simple, fluid and beautiful in a way that seems to reflect the simple life of this poverty-stricken old fisherman. The book opens with a brief glimpse into his life and the life of the other people in his village. The characters are humanized and help to draw us in as readers. Even if we can't relate to his way of life or his work, we can relate to him as a human being with his own passions, pains, joys and struggles.

The story may not appeal to everyone. The majority of the book takes place in the boat and is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of the old man as he tries to work through the situation. While Hemingway supposedly claimed no metaphor or allegory, there is certainly a lot of depth and pondering that a reader can apply to their own life as they struggle in the boat with the old man. You don't have to have gone fishing in the ocean to be able to relate to struggling with challenges you don't know you can overcome. The grit and gumption of the old man may remind us of people we know or even times in our lives when we persevered in spite of howling adversity.

If you haven't read this book, I recommend giving it a try. Put aside whatever reason has kept you away. Whether you felt overwhelmed reading Hemingway or you don't want to read a "fish book" or whatever other excuse you may have, I feel that if you approach this with an open mind and a desire to relate, you will find yourself drawn into this book more than you expect.

4 out of 5 stars

View all of my reviews on

No comments: