Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not (Scribner Classics)
Having said nice things about Hemingway in my previous post on Farewell to Arms, I confess to finding this book hard going.

The story is in three parts. Perhaps if I had paid more attention to the title of each part, I would have understood the narrative better. It is confusing. The first part is told in the first person. The second and third parts in the third person. It took me some time to realise that they all related to the same man.

What I like about the book

  • The dialogue – although a little irritating at first – had a ring of authenticity to it. After a while, I felt I was there, in the swamps of Florida, with the boatmen and fishermen.
  • The way the narrative charts the decline and disintegration of this particular man, with the loss of his boat, his arm and, eventually, his descent into mayhem and murder.

What I didn’t like

  • The confusing jump from 1st person to 3rd person narrative. I’m afraid I didn’t understand why and it confused me.
  • The way characters appeared in the final part – the writer, the various women – who had not appeared before and who bore, as far as I could work out, little relation to the plot. I thought the writer was probably Hemingway himself. But he needn’t have been there. It seemed a bit self-indulgent.

The writing style seemed different in this book, compare to Farewell to Arms. The sentences were shorter. The writing darker. Did I like it? No, not really.

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