There is something beautifully masculine about Ernest Hemingway’s writing. It is, at times, ephemeral, deep, yet containing a polished surface that does not display those dark ripples until closer inspection. Every time I read Hemingway, I am struck by the rawness that is waiting to be discovered. Buried in his prose are truth and pain.
Of all that I have read of Hemingway, my favorite is Islands in the Stream. The story consists of three parts, the first spent with the main character, Thomas Hudson, and his sons, fishing, drinking, and otherwise reveling in life. This section is resplendent with emotion and sensation, and I found myself simultaneously enraptured and afraid. Afraid because I sensed that the peace would not last and that heaven would be ripped apart to reveal truths about love and loss and living on even when you wish to die.
The second section is about grief and cats, in Cuba. It is best read with a tumbler of expensive whisky and a snuggly cat. Oh, and plenty of tissues. The last part is about accepting death, not just the death of others, but also our own impending deaths. The book is ripe with regret, not just Thomas Hudson’s, but also, I suspect, Hemingway’s as well.
If you are looking for a study in mood, this novel is well worth the read. It is mood that drives the reader on. So pick up a copy and prepare to be swept away. Don’t be surprised when you discover those little nuggets of truth, nuggets like this:
“Happiness is often presented as being very dull but, he thought, lying awake, that is because dull people are sometimes very happy and intelligent people can go around making themselves and everyone else miserable. He had never found happiness dull. It always seemed more exciting than any other thing and capable of as great intensity as sorrow to those people who were capable of having it. This may not be true but he had believed it to be true for a long time and this summer they had experienced happiness for a month now and, already, in the nights, he was lonely for it before it had ever gone away.”
Finally, once you have finished reading Islands, listen to this podcast to cheer yourself up: