Thursday, February 10, 2011

Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

And then there are the books that leave me scratching my head.

A couple of things: This book is mostly dialogue (I would hazard 80%?) which is like overhearing a conversation where you're not exactly sure what is going on so you have to listen really hard for clues to put the story together. There are a few pauses in the speaking when a couple of things get done, but then someone enters the scene and we get another 37 pages of conversation. Tiresome. And one of my pet peeves in a book is when, after initial introductions, we are forced to hear a character's FULL NAME every single time he's referred to, which is stupid -Hemingway loves using this word- and cumbersome. Why can't we be on a first-name basis as soon as possible? And Hemingway isn't the only author who does this, a certain Dan Brown (not quite the same literary caliber, I know) loves dragging out every character's full name at every opportunity too. Authors, please please stop doing this, it is most annoying.

So where does that leave me with Islands in the Stream? On the fence. I really should have applied my fifty-page rule, but alas. The only reason I stuck with it was because I read A Moveable Feast and fell in love with Papa, and, naturally, had to get my hands on everything with his name on it. Islands  turned up at the used book store for a couple of bucks, so . . . But the story? weighty and intense, which is fine as long as there is something -characters, scenery, fabulous writing, hope, etc- in there to make me want to keep reading. So I held out for the dialogue-free parts which were really good -very evocative, sometimes tender, occasionally funny- read to the end, and called it done.


once in a blue moon said...

about that full name thing... menopause makes me appreciate it~ if you don't read a book in one sitting when i come back, oh say 4 hours later, i haven't a clue who anyone is, a full name and description is always welcome!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Oh, how sad that this one didn't work out! As you know, I adore all things Hemingway, but...I haven't read this one yet because I've heard mixed reviews on it. I'm afraid to taint my image of his work! :) You know, you bring up a great point - I much prefer at times in Hemingway's work, the sections that have no dialogue, that are purely descriptions of the action, the surroundings, etc. He really is lyrical with that and part of what draws me the most to his work.

Trish said...

blue moon - yes, I know what you mean. I often get muddled especially when I'm reading 19th Century stuff, they just love using a random assortment of names, nicknames, and titles. I just make little notes on my bookmark and keep on reading.

book chick - this probably wasn't the best choice for me to pick up so soon after Moveable Feast; it was rather disappointing. But, oh well, there are others to look forward to, because, yes, his descriptive passages are just so divine.

Sam said...

I've only read one Hemingway (Farewell to Arms) and I was on the fence about that one too. It hasn't exactly made me want to rush out and read more of his work.

oreneta said...

Old Man and the Sea, Fine. Farewell to Arms, hated it. The Sun also Rises repulsed me and a friend who is not so opposed said that Islands in the Stream was weak. I'm not likely to read it ever.

Guess you could say I'm not a Hemingway fan.

R said...

So far I've only read one Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. Unfortunately, like oreneta, I didn't like it all that much. I'm not totally against the idea of picking up more of his books in the future, but I suppose I'm not particularly desperate to. Since you enjoyed Moveable Feast, perhaps I might try that one at some point.

Trish said...

Well, shoot.

I had my suspicions that that might be the case.

Old Man and the Sea was the only other book of his that I've read, but that was years ago. So after enjoying Moveable Feast so much recently, I thought I would give him another chance. But -ehn- I'm not convinced that he's all that after all.

I won't write him off completely, but I will give him a rest for a while.