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Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway
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Islands in the Stream (original 1970; edition 1970)

by Ernest Hemingway

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2,368224,687 (3.74)51
First published in 1970, nine years after Ernest Hemingway's death, Islands in the Stream is the story of an artist and adventurer -- a man much like Hemingway himself. Rich with the uncanny sense of life and action characteristic of his writing -- from his earliest stories (In Our Time) to his last novella (The Old Man and the Sea) -- this compelling novel contains both the warmth of recollection that inspired A Moveable Feast and a rare glimpse of Hemingway's rich and relaxed sense of humor, which enlivens scene after scene. Beginning in the 1930s, Islands in the Stream follows the fortunes of Thomas Hudson from his experiences as a painter on the Gulf Stream island of Bimini, where his loneliness is broken by the vacation visit of his three young sons, to his antisubmarine activities off the coast of Cuba during World War II. The greater part of the story takes place in a Havana bar, where a wildly diverse cast of characters -- including an aging prostitute who stands out as one of Hemingway's most vivid creations -- engages in incomparably rich dialogue. A brilliant portrait of the inner life of a complex and endlessly intriguing man, Islands in the Stream is Hemingway at his mature best.… (more)
Member:rybie2
Title:Islands in the Stream
Authors:Ernest Hemingway
Info:Charles Scribners Sons (1970), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, GA
Rating:**
Tags:fiction

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Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway (1970)

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
The first section of this book should stand alone--the rest is all right, but it's more like a version of "I wonder what happened to this character AFTER the book was finished?" As in, "what did Nick Carraway do AFTER he went back home to the Midwest?" But it's worth it solely for the first (and, I believe, the longest) section--three-and-a-half stars. ( )
  ChristopherSwann | May 15, 2020 |
I've long been a fan of Old Man and the Sea - it was my all time favorite beach read a while back. So, when I learned that these stories constituted the foundation and origin of that story, I was eager to read it on vacation this year. Our vacation was interrupted, and reading wasn't an option, so I'm just now finishing it - far from the shore.

Islands in the Stream are three connected stories published together posthumously by Hemingway's wife and publisher. They had editing duties - giving 400 or so pages the ax - but informed sources say they were well acquainted with EH's editorial preferences, and they added nothing to the text.

The protagonist is a wealthy painter with a history of being an international celebrity who hobnobs with the greatest minds and creators of his time... this isn't a relatable circumstance, but probably what readers wanted most with their escapism reading. The wealth and privilege aren't very becoming when it comes to how his life of leisure, stable of servants, and variety of luxury living situations are concerned. This isn't to say he lives a life free of pain. Pain is something he has no shortage of, and as the story progresses - it becomes nearly all he has.

It was endearing and fascinating to read how "the other half" lives, and how that life relates to (and is in contrast with) my own experience. Especially when we have art in common. Thomas Hudson prides himself on a strong work ethic - probably to not lose his male audience who already has to swallow the story of a man who lives in luxury doing as he wishes, with occasional visits from (virtually abandoned) children and starlet ex-wives. Very little of his character's mindset is relatable to an artist. Rather - TH sounds a lot more like a writer posing as an artist (several factors make Stephen King's Duma Key look to be influenced by IitS).

The sections were of distinctly different tones and flavors. The protagonist at times only feels like the same character because he shares the same name, and sparse sentences of reference to an earlier phase of life. He certainly strives to erase his pain by both ignoring it, and drinking his brain into a state malleable enough to forget. The sources of his pain are felt and empathized with by this reader, at least, so that tenuous connection still holds.

It isn't 100% clear how Old Man and the Sea originated with this period of working - but if it was intended as follow-up to a struggle in the first act (Bimini), the result will always be a different staging when reading OMatS, and a powerful one.

Hemingway is forever analyzed for his portrayal of gendered issues - and those looking closely tend to give him more slack as the years go by. I don't personally get the sexist claims and demonized perspective others paint him with - I see genuine reflection, given honestly, by someone who loves women - but is not himself a woman or a man who would make an effort to put himself in a woman's shoes, not being one. There may be an empathy gap there - but his empathy gap is broad and showing at all times for other men, of other race, proclivity, social and financial means. He's true to himself (whatever we think of that self), and he proudly broadcasts that women are frequently at the center of all his happiest memories, relationships, and enriching life moments.

A man feeling a need to erase painful loses is at the heart of the stories. So much so, that a couple of those critical and pointed loses are never again referred to after book one. The absence hurt me. The lost lives were more pronounced for it. By not dealing with some things, he made those things much, much bigger - but the notion that a man must cry, but that seeing that crying is a chief disgust, has shackled him to a damaged and hobbled existence with dwindling meaning. And we (I) never stop relating and connecting with that life. At times uncomfortable, to say the least, I never stopped liking the story and wanting more of it.

The book reads like an album assembled by the family, and remaining band members, after the death of a band's lead vocalist. I can't see it as complete or as a pure product of its creator - however hard I try. That is what keeps it from achieving a 5th star, for me. But it is his work, and what's there of it is absolutely worth the time to share with him. ( )
  Ron18 | Aug 20, 2019 |
This is one of the last Hemingway books that I haven't read. Overall, it's a very interesting portrait of Thomas Hudson-- a painter, and the various locations that he travels to. A bunch of the book is set with his three children while another part of it goes to a bar in Havana. Finally, there are the exploits that he takes hunting U-boats in WW2 (an experience tightened up by Hemingway's own experiences doing the same.) It is an intimate self-portrait of Hudson that is highly revealing and stark with Hemingway's own experience.

Nonetheless, I felt that the prose faltered at many parts and that the story wandered and meandered through much of its duration. I did not feel that this was true Hemingway, rather than being a manuscript that was not realized in its full potential before Hemingway's death and was, likewise, published.

2 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 2, 2019 |
Part of the action takes place in Bimini, Bahamas. Our family vacationed there in June 2010. I'm not a big fan of Hemingway story lines, in general, but the prose quality is superb, as usual. ( )
  Brauer11431 | Apr 16, 2019 |
"He thought that on the ship he could come to some terms with his sorrow, not knowing, yet, that there are no terms to be made with sorrow. It can be cured by death and it can be blunted or anaesthetized by various things. Time is supposed to cure it, too. But if it is cured by anything less than death, the chances are that it was not true sorrow." (pg. 193)

Having read almost everything Ernest Hemingway published in his lifetime, I am pleased that his finer qualities can also be found in his posthumously published manuscripts. Of course, I know these sorts of works often have a murky tint of commercial opportunism, but it is good for fans of a particular style to immerse themselves fully in everything a writer had to offer. I also know such partially-completed or unrevised manuscripts can – for some – taint a writer's legacy but I do not personally feel this way. Just as when I listen to a new Jimi Hendrix bootleg I don't expect to come across a song as immaculate and well-conceived as 'All Along the Watchtower' or 'Bold as Love', I don't approach Islands in the Stream expecting it to top For Whom the Bell Tolls or The Old Man and the Sea. It doesn't make what went before any less brilliant.

But you do have to provide your filters more thoroughly and if you do there's still a lot of gold-dust to be found. Split up into three loosely-connected acts (perhaps Hemingway would have provided more polish to these had he lived), Islands in the Stream, despite its lack of revision, has a consistent theme: that of a man looking back over the sadness of his life and the melancholy inherent in even the good memories he has had. Some of the despair is on a slow burn; at other times it is like a gut punch. Either way, it is an interesting continuation of Hemingway's late-period retrospection also seen in under-rated works like Across the River and Into the Trees and the posthumous A Moveable Feast. There's a lot of weary hopefulness, of finding contentment in small mercies ("If you always steered with the sun behind you and on a day like this, what a place the ocean would be." (pg. 358)) and the whole book reads as an effort of will: of a great and dying beast making one final, creaking rise in pursuit of something which it cannot articulate but knows to be true.

Actually, that makes it sound rather dour but that is not the case: all Hemingway's sharp qualities are on display, not least his skills of observation. Due to its largely unedited form, Islands in the Stream is more expansive and – yes – indulgent when it comes to descriptive writing. This can be a drawback, as I shall come onto presently, but it also means Hemingway goes into great depth about the sights and the smells and the feelings evoked by everything the characters witness. In this book, we experience Hemingway's already-high perception turned up to eleven.

But Islands in the Stream is still a posthumous work, and one cannot but help the feeling that Hemingway would have pared back some of the prose before agreeing to publication, had he been alive. At 450 pages, it is far longer than any of his other novels save For Whom the Bell Tolls, but at 490 pages that epic was permissible in breaking the mold as it was Hemingway's magnum opus. Islands in the Stream, in contrast, has a lot of excessive scene-setting and conversations that don't seem to serve any purpose, such as one on page 102 in which two characters talk about mustard and chutney and one asks whether the other has ever had it on a sandwich. (If you're gripped by that, the response from the other character is "No.") It is natural in posthumous works for editors to want to include as much of the available manuscript as possible – in the heartbreaking knowledge that there will be no further manuscripts delivered – but it ignores the fact that even great writers in their careers submit their work to editors and have entire sections cleaved or reworked. The posthumous publication denied Hemingway of two of his finest qualities: brevity and editorial ruthlessness. However, it needs to be stressed that the rest of his writing qualities are very much on display. Hemingway's adherence to perception and truth and cleanliness in prose is one of his greatest attractions to a reader, and it is a commitment that he carries right through to the final line of Islands in the Stream, which is as true a line as the man ever wrote.

"You never understand anybody that loves you." (pg. 450) ( )
  Mike_F | Feb 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
". . . a complete, well-rounded novel, a contender with his very best. It has his characteristic blend of strong-running narrative and reflective mememto mori and it is 100-proof Old Ernest, most of it."
 
This book does not make it. I wanted this book to make it. I have been pulling for Hemingway to hit one out of the lot for a long time now. I wanted another novel like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, or To Have and Have Not... So here, in Islands in the Stream, is his last at bat. From beyond the grave. What a chance for drama! But Mr. Hemingway took a called third strike, lying down...

All in all, Hemingway knows his men and his war and his food and his drinks and the wind and the sea and the birds, and how to boat, and he knows his crabs and his wild boars and his dogs and his insects, and he knows his death is coming. He’s weak on his women but most of us are, and his conversations aren’t quite real; they are Hemingway conversations, but once you realize this you can accept them. And there’s free knowledge in the book on all sorts of little things besides making good drinks. Although I don’t care too much for his peanut butter with raw onion sandwiches... No, the book doesn’t make it. Few do. I’d say buy it just to know which way things went. They went that way. And he’s gone now.
added by SnootyBaronet | editCoast FM and Fine Arts, Charles Bukowski (Jan 1, 1970)
 

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ernest Hemingwayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Homer, WinslowCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schnabel, ErnstTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The house was built on the highest part of the narrow tounge of land between the harbor and the open sea.
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First published in 1970, nine years after Ernest Hemingway's death, Islands in the Stream is the story of an artist and adventurer -- a man much like Hemingway himself. Rich with the uncanny sense of life and action characteristic of his writing -- from his earliest stories (In Our Time) to his last novella (The Old Man and the Sea) -- this compelling novel contains both the warmth of recollection that inspired A Moveable Feast and a rare glimpse of Hemingway's rich and relaxed sense of humor, which enlivens scene after scene. Beginning in the 1930s, Islands in the Stream follows the fortunes of Thomas Hudson from his experiences as a painter on the Gulf Stream island of Bimini, where his loneliness is broken by the vacation visit of his three young sons, to his antisubmarine activities off the coast of Cuba during World War II. The greater part of the story takes place in a Havana bar, where a wildly diverse cast of characters -- including an aging prostitute who stands out as one of Hemingway's most vivid creations -- engages in incomparably rich dialogue. A brilliant portrait of the inner life of a complex and endlessly intriguing man, Islands in the Stream is Hemingway at his mature best.

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