I belong to two book clubs, as I’ve mentioned several times, both very congenial with lovely people and both always guaranteeing a lot of talk, laughter, tea and some chat about the book we’re discussing. For one of the groups we read a collection of Ernest Hemingway short stories; I’d read many of them before, and most of his novels, but many years ago when I was a teenager and student. When I read them I had no idea how important he was in terms of the way he wrote as much as what he wrote, and how influential his style was. I had the main landmarks of his life and times in mind, but only a rough sketchy idea of his life story. I’m not sure how I came across it, but I saw a book advertised called ‘Hemingway’s Boat‘, by Paul Hendrickson, subtitled – everything he loved in life, and lost, 1934-1961. I decided to buy it to fill in some of the gap’s of the man’s life, and maybe his death which I vaguely remember being in the news when I was a small child.
This is the blurb from Amazon:
She’d been intimately his, and he hers, for twenty-seven years – which were his final twenty-seven years. She’d lasted through three wives, the Nobel Prize, and all his ruin. He’d owned her, fished her, worked her and rode her, from the waters of Key West to the Bahamas to the Dry Tortugas to the north coast and archipelagos of Cuba.’
Even in his most accomplished period, Hemingway carried within him the seeds of his tragic decline and throughout this period he had one constant – his beloved boat, Pilar. The boat represented and witnessed everything he loved in life – virility, deep-sea fishing, access to his beloved ocean, freedom, women and booze and the formative years of his children.
Paul Hendrickson focuses on the period from 1934 to 1961, from the pinnacle of Hemingway’s fame to his suicide. He has delved into the life of Hemingway and done the seemingly impossible: present him to us in a whole new light.
I haven’t got very far into it because it’s not something to be rushed; it strikes me so far as being very well – no actually beautifully written, and although in my most recent post I mentioned how I sometimes read too quickly and miss things, I won’t be doing that with this book. Hendrickson mentions in his introduction – which is very interesting in itself that there are countless books written about Hemingway but he wanted to write about him through an object that he possessed and over the time in which he possessed it, hence the boat. In his introduction he dodges back and forth belong the time-line of Hemingway’s life, an interesting way of writing. Not that I’m comparing myself to Hendrickson, but when I first started writing novels, I too played about with time sequence, not writing events in the order they happened. I was trying to intrigue any reader I might have had, to puzzle them, and to make sure there was always some action. I probably was just confusing, but I did plan it carefully, and made sure there were no loose ends, and nothing was revealed too soon to spoil the tension. This was partly why I was so interested in the way Hendrickson was writing as well as the continent.
I’m only a couple of chapters in and there’s a huge amount of detail, which is very interesting, however, I did wonder if there might come a point when there is so much detail that the narrative gets a little lost, or the jumping backwards and forwards with time becomes confusing, or worse, irritating!