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Islands in the Stream Mass Market Paperback – July, 1981
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Top Customer Reviews
Thomas Hudson, a hard drinking, twice divorced, expatriate American artist, is an all too obvious self-portrait. But his low-key reactions to most of life's ups and downs, the inner demons he mostly keeps a lid on, and his begrudging love of life in spite of it all can surely appeal to the romantic adventurer in all of us. The three sections of the novel, bound only loosely together, follow Thomas from an average day in paradise to a tragicomic reunion with the lost love of his life to a Nazi-hunting adventure off the coast of Cuba. Along the way, there are tragic twists delivered without any sappiness whatsoever, as only Hemingway could do, not to mention a life-or-death fishing scene that rivals "The Old Man and the Sea."
I can't imagine why this is being marketed as a love story, as that aspect of the novel is probably its weakest point, although his (very few) women characters are at least marginally more developed and convincing than usual. It's really more a story of escape and coping with the lack of love, and it's one of the best I've ever read of that subgenre. Yes, as others have pointed out, it's a bit uneven and the first section holds up better than the other two; and yes, the editing is imperfect and surely not exactly the way Hemingway would have wanted it. But the whole book is worth reading all the same. Given Hemingway's condition toward the end of his life, we're lucky to have it.
The book, broken into three distinct sections, recounts chapters in the life of Thomas Hudson, a somewhat thinly veiled version of Hemingway. That's not to say that this is a story about Hemingway himself, but its pretty clear there is a lot of Hemingway in Hudson.
The first section, considered by many to be the best (and, as a I recall, the focus of the film made of the book), takes place in Bimini, where Hudson is leading a fairly idyllic life. The second is centered in Cuba but has an entirely different tone from that of the first. Whereas the "Bimini" section is almost light-hearted and somewhat breezy, the tone of the Cuba section has changed dramatically. Hudson is now a depressed individual having lost a son in an accident. He has a reunion with his first wife, but even though she is the love of his life, he knows it won't end happily. The third part, "At Sea," recounts Hudson's efforts as a Nazi sub hunter.
Hemingway is at his best throughout much of the book, his men are all striving to prove that they are, well, men, or at least the ideal of what a man should be in Hemingway's eyes. And naturally enough, no Hemingway man, in this case Hudson, would be complete without a little tragedy in his life. "At Sea," while powerfully told, seems somehow incomplete, which may well be the case since I do not think Hemingway completed the book before his death. In fact, the ending seemed extremely abrupt and left me wondering, did Hudson survive his wounds?
Still, this is some of Hemingway's best work. A must read. The only reason I did not give it five stars is because of the abrupt ending and a few other brief passages in the book that seem somehow incomplete and unfinished.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some great writing here. Others might not like it, because they don't like Hemingway. One of my favorite books. Hemingway's power of description is on a power trip in this book.Published 13 days ago by John J. Falkenstine
needs editing but is wonderful Hemingway stuff. I love the first 2 parts. Over the last 30 years I have read this 3 times.Published 1 month ago by Art Green
Great read, I forgot how captivating Hemingway writes. As with others he has written you feel like you are there. Read morePublished 2 months ago by smarie
This is a painful review to write... because I usually like Hemingway's delivery so much. I hadn't read the book in maybe twenty-five years and thought I'd give it another shot,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Davidicus
This work, like most of Hemingway's work, is extremely 'blokey' in style and subject matter. Fishing, fighting, drinking and war form the backdrop. Read morePublished 3 months ago by sally tarbox
One of the few writers you can read and come out of the book more engaged in the outside world, not less. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ramsbottom-isherwood
This is my favorite Hemingway novel. I especially like the first section.Published 7 months ago by Blake G.
This was a depressing book! Its the story of an alcoholic painter and fisherman, living on an island in the Caribbean, and you would think that would make for a happy person. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Donna Kwiatkowski
interesting analysis of an interesting character. pure hemingwayPublished 7 months ago by john griswold