on January 13, 2015
Isn't it amazing how patriotism can cure alcoholism.
Interesting to see what people do when they loose their family and friends.
on April 20, 2014
The story is beautifully written, and it has a slow but steady pace. This story is composed of three short stories. It starts on the island of Bimini and progresses to Cuba and ends up chasing a U boat crew through the mangrove swamps off the coast of that island. The setting is very well developed and it was easy to picture the natural beauty depicted. The author probably wrote, in part, from his own experience. The story is slow but it has some action and adventure. The shark attack and fighting a thousand pound Marlin Swordfish are high points. I also liked the chasing of the U boat crew story.
The literal islands are allegories for the protagonist Thomas Hudson’s personal islands. In the case of Bimini the island is his family of four sons who come to visit and a couple of friends. On Cuba the island is Hudson’s family of cats. He is known as a man who loves cats. The literal stream is the gulfstream. It is a current in the ocean that brings danger in the form of sharks, a Marlin Swordfish and U boats. Fighting happens there and it is both beautiful and dangerous. It is an allegory for life, something akin to the river of life. It takes Hudson’s life. In the end the last words reveal that Hudson is an island onto himself. An introverted self focused man who likes to be alone. He misses the fact that he is loved by others. He doesn’t like women to be close, but he can’t live without them. He is the kind of man who entertains himself while alone.
This story was published after the author’s death so he didn’t have any input on the last draft. Given that, I didn’t really notice his pared down style or his economical use of words. I did notice his ability to say things without writing them as in the case of the death of Peters. In that passage it was written that Thomas Hudson made three mistakes that day and it is left to the reader to connect that those mistakes to the death of Peters.
After Hemingway’s own death there are some who say that he was a forerunner of the Sexual Revolution. I have to critique a couple of pages that praise pedophilia, human trafficking, sex with children, and sex slavery in this book. It’s just wrong especially if it was written for politics.
This book is a work of art. The action and adventure is rich. The setting really takes you there and the characters are deep and interesting.
The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre...
...in that order. I'd probably give this book 3.5 stars, somewhere between it was good and it was OK, if I could.
The first of the three sections of this novel is truly good. It introduces us to Thomas Hudson, a painter and a thinly veiled Hemingway, and his life on the island of Bimini. Hudson, like Hemingway, is an artist who is serious about his craft and about his work ethic. We learn of his life among the characters of the island, including the locals and his friends. The richest part of all is the visit of his three sons (by his first two wives) and the good times they share. There is good character development of all three boys, each so different from the others and each showing different parts of their father's personality. And there are the friends and servants of Hudson's, whom he loves and who play important parts in his son's lives, often where it is difficult for a father to enter. There is a tense shark attack and an epic battle with a monster marlin by the middle son, and there is a great deal of psychology of boys and men woven richly throughout. Hudson is a father who can't seem to love all-out, whole-heartedly, even though his sons need and want it. The feelings are there but the wiring in Hudson's head and heart shorts out a little and never conducts his deepest, truest self to his boys. Tragically, Hudson learns of the death of his two youngest sons and their mother (his second wife) at the close of the story.
The middle section of the book certainly has some good description and some realistic conversation, but overall it is one running conversation after another, mostly in the context of a bar where Hudson and his companions (who come and go) are drinking heavily, about very little of any importance. Hudson has just gotten wind of his first son's death (a pilot in WWII) and ultimately this accounts for the drinking but probably also for the attempts by Hudson to avoid any topic of significance in his conversations with others. Hudson's first wife and the only woman he ever deeply loved shows up and they have a rendezvous before Hudson can work up the fortitude to tell her of their son's death. They grieve and love together and she has to leave. All in all, a draggy and hopeless section of this story that doesn't live up to the first and last sections.
The last section follows Hudson and his crew as they conduct anti-submarine activities from his small ship (or large boat) in and around Cuba. The story is a game of cat and mouse in which Hudson and his crew is the cat and the surviving crew members from a German U-boat is the mouse. Hemingway builds tension in the hunt and between Hudson's crew members well. There are some really exciting moments and some truly touching interaction between Hudson and his crew, as they must try to overcome their differences and dislikes of each other to band together to find and fight the enemy. After the middle section this is a welcome change...there is actually stuff happening here, a plot. But it does pail in comparison to the richness of the opening section of this book.
All in all, I was glad I read this but the middle section prevents me from liking this book with anything close to whole-heartedness. And if you are someone who enjoys happy endings, none of the three sections of this book end that way. The reader is left thinking that likely, as the sons went, so the father goes. There is much tragedy and hopelessness in this book, which too is a fair reflection of Hemingway's own life.
on October 24, 2003
I wish Amazon would incorporate 1/2 stars but I guess that would make things even more complicated. This is one of my favorite Hemingway books and one of the few published posthumously that lives up to his legacy.
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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.
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.
on April 2, 2003
If the first section on Bimini (the Island on the Stream [the gulf stream for those who still do not understand]) was package by itself it would have received 5 stars. Unfortunatley the latter 2 stories bring the overall rating down somewhat. That too could have been fixed through a little more editing. But regardless I would recommend buying this book to read the first section alone. It gives the depth and feel of what a child or adult on the stream experienced. I must admit when I first read this story I was horrified that the little island Bimini would get more fanfare from this. I had many memorable trips there but it's been years since. But at anytime I can pick up this book read the Bimini section and remember Brown's hotel dock, the Complete Angler, the beauty of the Ocean, the feel of the tradewinds, and the thrill of the fishing. The story of Tom Hudson life on the island almost gives one a jolt of envy that it wasn't them until the following developments that Hemingway is known for. What else can you say? If you enjoy Hemingway, the Sea, and Fishing buy it.
on March 23, 2002
This is a good - bad book. The good is the first part, set in Bimini in 1940, and the third part, which describes the hunt for a U-Boat crew off the coast of Cuba. The middle section can be skipped, but admirers of Hemingway will want to read it simply because he wrote it. The work as a whole is an artistic failure but it is moving and (to use a much overused word) unforgettable. One feels that Thomas Hudson is the older Hemingway and that the book is a key to his life, rather like The Garden of Eden, another posthumous work. A skilled editor would have improved this book, but it is still well worth reading, if only for the action scenes and the descriptions of the sea.
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!