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on July 31, 2003
Ernest Hemingway is my favorite author. It began by reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in a high school English class. The way he writes is his own. I have not read another that uses the same style Hemingway does. He is able to portray the lives of others in a way the allows the reader to understand them. I find his words to be quite similar to actual human experience. They are not romanticized or unreal.
This novel has three parts about Thomas Hudson. The first is the one I like the most. It starts out slow, but a fight and a deep fishing scene create excitement, and I couldn't put the novel down. Hemingway, a master of tragedy, creates another tragic ending. The second part is not the great, but not that bad. It deals with his life during the war and a reunion with his first wife. The third part reminds me off "For Whom the Bells Toll" because it seems more action packed than the rest of the novel. The first two parts are based on human interaction, while the third is a chase at sea for a German U-boat crew.
This is a great novel and I highly recommend it if you like Hemingway.
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on April 15, 2003
Of the Hemingway books I've read or tried to read, Islands in the Stream is my favorite thus far. All the great and not-so-great elements of his legendary style are here, from the deadpan prose to the men who try too hard to be men, but they all fit together very well in this case. The exotic island setting is perfect for Hemingway's trademark everyday-life-is-an-adventure motif, which for once is wholly convincing.
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.
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on April 4, 2003
_Islands in the Stream_ is my favorite novel by Ernest Hemingway. Like most of his works, the prose is relatively sparse but very readable and very entertaining. It is also one of his most definitive novels in terms of revealing his true thoughts on the subject of life, death, and tragedy. Some of this may not be obvious at the onset of the book; the most important events establishing the theme of this novel do not occur until later, culminating in a surprising and disturbing ending. Of course I will not reveal this ending, so I will give you a brief rundown of the initial setting and cast: The novel takes place on the Bimini Islands off the coast of Florida. The main character is a hard-drinking, hard-partying, womanizing landscape painter, the ideal Hemingway character. Also in typical Hemingway fashion, his seemingly idyllic and glamorous existence is marred by heartbreak and tragedy. There is action and suspense when the protagonist embarks on his WW-II era, anti-nazi submarine hunting missions off the coast of Cuba. But the ending is the definitive part of this work. It has much to say about Hemingway's spiritual beliefs, which is rare because much of his mysterious prose is very reserved in this regard. I highly recommend this book to both Hemingway fans and fans of literature in general.
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on December 1, 2001
Before this book, my two favorite Hemingway novels of fiction were The Old Man And The Sea (in my top three of all time!) and The Sun Also Rises.
Not any longer. Let me tell you why.
Taken as a whole, Islands In The Stream is very good, but not great. Why? Because there are three different sections to the book. The first is what makes this novel shine. At around 200 pages, the first section is a novel within the novel, and, like others have said, it DOES contain the most exciting section concerning deep sea fishing ever written. That, along with a wonderful cast of characters, makes the first section one of the greatest pieces of fiction of all time.
The second section is good, but not great, and continues the trend of bad things happening to Thomas Hudson. The third section is even more of a downer, but is exciting because of the thrill of the hunt, as Hudson chases after a damaged German U-boat.
Again, I rate book one, Bimini, better than anything Hemingway has ever written, and book two and three mearly good Hemingway, which is good enough for me!
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on October 31, 2001
Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream is my favorite book by Hemingway, and indeed, my favorite book. I feel that Hemingway is at his descriptive best in this book, so much so that the reader gets a genuine feel for the enviornment that the main character, Thomas Hudson, is in, and the emotions that he feels. The book is divided into three sections, each quite distinct, but working well together to show the difference in a person after particular events have taken place. The story has been referred to as Hemingway's greatest love story, but don't be mistaken; it's not your typical sap--there is much more to the story and to life than the love between a man and a woman, the story does consist of that specific type of love, but also consists of love for family, love for work, love for escape, love for life, love for home, love for self, love for friends, love for duty, and many, many more types of love. Islands in the Stream may come accross as a book "not to read" simply because it does not have the happiest of endings. Although the ending is not "happy", it is satisfying, and most importantly, realistic. Too much writing, in books, television, and movies, is meant to make you feel better, instead of meant to give you an understanding of life. If you are looking for a book that will help you better understand yourself, people, life, and love in a realistic manner, or if you just love Hemingway's beatiful articulation, this book is for you.
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on April 27, 2000
(Actually, I would give this book 6 stars.) With all the controversy about "True at First Light" and the validity of posthumous works this book this is a clear, strong and memorable work. If it not exactly as Hemingway would have finished it I feel no remorse in loving this book. I think about it almost every day since I read it years ago. In the movie version Thomas Hudson was played by George C. Scott , but would have been better suited with Bill Holden. The Thomas Hudson character works off of strong contradictions, just as Holden's characters in "Sunset Boulevard" and "Stalag 17". As in "Sunset Boulevard" the main character falls, unwittingly, into a situation to which he is extremely ambivalent. Thomas Hudson is attracted and repulsed by his involvement in the war in the same way that the Bill Holden Character is attracted and repulsed by his involvement with Norma Desmond. It strikes me that this ambivalence is a very American trait, making "Islands in The Stream" and "Sunset Boulevard" two very American works of Art.
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on July 13, 1998
This book was beautifully bitersweet to me. Thomas Hudson's life (the main character) is a story of tradgedy we've all experienced to one degree or another -- and the flicker of hope that remains when bitterness or despair sets in. As usual, the backdrop for the plot is classic Hemingway: romantic locales, adventure, insight and excellent observations on human character. I'd also like to point out that this is one of the most moving descriptions of fathers and sons (Hudson and his boys) that I've ever read in a novel. In addition there is an incredible sport fishing scene on the Gulf Stream that is the most vivid and exciting fishing account I've read. It will engross the reader totally. Without giving the story away, my only complaint was the second act of the book -- the bitter and nearly defeated Hudson living in Cuba during World War Two. Not to take away from the skill of the storytelling, but Hudson's bitterness during this part of the story is hard to ! ! witness. It left me feeling depressed at times myself. On the other hand it can be argued though that if a story has that sort of emotional effect, then it is successful. And who says stories must always be uplifiting anyways. As Hemingway experienced, as well as the rest of us -- life can be a downer at times. The dark mood of the second half is refreshed though by a dramatic, emotional and introspective ending that left a tear in my eye. I highly recommend this to the fans of Hemingway as well as anyone else -- a well done emotional journey.
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on September 13, 1998
For those aquainted with Hemingway's work, it is easily seen that "Islands" represents the culmination of his talent. Those familiar with his work will find threads of thought similar to his other books, complete with the emotional conflict so authentic that it infects the reader.Hemingway draws from the entire breadth of his writing career, from the simple happiness of the "Nick Adams Stories," to the fatalistic bravery of "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Also to be found in this story are the barren souls of "The Sun Also Rises" and the intense zest for life inherent in all his writings. I believe that because Mr. Hemingway chose to write "Islands in the Stream" without reserve in this manner is why it became his most autobiographical story. "Islands" provides a singularly complete look into how he experienced life. A fitting end to his work.
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on May 28, 1998
Being a posthumously published novel, and not one of HEMINGWAY'S most famous ones, I wasn't expecting to like ISLANDS IN THE STREAM as much as I did. But I think it is an absolutely brilliant novel; probably Hemingway's third best (After THE SUN ALSO RISES and A FAREWELL TO ARMS). Thomas Hudson is an interesting protagonist, and his relationship with his sons is moving, and without the cynicism that colors most of the affectionate relationships in Hemingway's work. The writing is brilliant (among the best I've ever read), and the action scenes done with artistry. I believe ISLANDS is an under-appreciated novel in Hemingway's oeuvre.
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on September 20, 1998
ABsolutely among his best works. From his starry eyed descriptions of the carribean, to hunting u-boats in the Keys, and his stories of other modernist writers (such as joyce and fitzgerald) this is a beautifully written and near-epic tale. A must read for any fan of Hemingway, modernism, or the tropics. An in-close look at the meaning of life and death, this challenges "For Whom The Bell Tolls" for hisa greatest worrk on the subject. A true classic, please, for yourself, read it.
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