The Old Man of the story’s title is a fisherman who hasn’t caught a fish in such a long time that he’s now considered bad luck. Realizing he has to turn his luck around, he goes as far out at sea as he can and winds up in a battle of wills against a fish that might just beat him.
The first thing I want to get across is that, despite my rating, this is a book I’m glad I read. The story and what I felt it was trying to say are really beautiful. That ultimately the goal or success is not the point. It’s the struggle. And the fact that people will care that you struggled, whether you succeeded or not. Because the Old Man’s efforts are profound here, and it’s not lost on anyone who sees that he went through a great deal, and it’s appreciated. It’s a bittersweet sort of hope, but it’s still hope, and I loved that.
Yet ultimately you either will like the way Hemingway chose to write that, the style he used, or you won’t. And I didn’t. It was minimalistic to the point of being too much so. While I don’t know if they’d want to, a middle-grade child could read this. When a book is intended for children, I don’t mind that so much. But as an adult reading a classic, I need more than that. I understood the choice. He was trying to show the main character’s simplistic way of life, his thoughts and dreams, and did it by writing almost entirely from the character’s point-of-view, even in style. That’s an interesting choice, but not fun to read.
Another thing to take into account is that this story focuses a lot on the fisherman’s method of catching fish, as well as on those long periods where endurance is required to win the day. This results in slow spots, even in a book as short as this. They’re peppered throughout the story, and there are moments where the intensity is fairly high which makes up for these slow points, but they are there.
It’s hard to be hard on this book, because it did have something to say, but I’m not sure it was as effective style-wise as it could’ve been. I urge anyone questioning this review to check it out, because it is worth it for the story alone, regardless of everything else.