Book Review – The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

A short, 99-page novella with so much action and philosophy packed in.

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This book isn’t a light read. I have seen so many comments on internet where people have admitted to leaving this book halfway. Well, I get that. It is not a book for a lazy Sunday read. Well, it is if you like your Sundays full of ocean and fish and rants of an old man. The man literally mumbles nonsense throughout the novel and somewhere there is a story too.


Well, there are not many characters in this story. There is this old fisherman who sleeps comfortably on newspapers and gets cut by the fishing cord on a regular basis. He doesn’t think men should worry about bleeding and pain. He tries hard to ignore pain. Then there is his disciple – this little kid who is the exact opposite.

Life hasn’t hardened this kid yet so, he cares for the old man, tends to his wounds and cries at his miserable condition.

The other characters include fish and sharks. They along with the ocean form the struggle for our old fisherman. The old man is borderline senile. He talks to himself and has a die-another-day kind of philosophy about life.


The old man sets sail and leaves the boy behind. He fights the mighty ocean, struggles with finding a good catch and eventually finds himself in the middle of a struggle with the ocean. There are ups and downs in his journey. It is the story of a man being one with the nature. It is wild as it gets. It is Hemingway’s idea of giving you a Bear Grylls show but with more realism. There is no camera crew – just Hemingway’s imagination which does a much better job.

The old man catches a fish but it is not just any fish. It is a mighty one. And the old man patiently waits for the fish to give up. The tussle goes on and we learn that the man genuinely respects the fish. He respects the way it carries itself, free from any guile. He understands what he needs to do is not holy or pious but it is – in the sense that it is his duty. The respect for your adversary and the sportsman-like spirit (although both their lives are at stake here) is what the book is about. It is better felt than understood.

Read it for the pure joy of storytelling.


There are a lot of fishing terms thrown in. I didn’t look them up and could make out their meaning with the context. There are types of fish and there is fishing equipment and there is the old man wishing that he had brought some lemon and salt with him.

There are a lot of prepositions in this book which got me confused at points. I think it is the American versus British difference. Hemingway writes with a vengeance describing all that is important and nothing else.

Yet, there are lines that feel unnecessary not because they were forced. But because the lesson in them has been repeated in popular culture way too often. The book has passed its legacy on and is now just a relic, a lesson in literature’s history. We know that man is born to battle against odds and the fun is in riding the waves. And even when there is loss, man earns a sense of belonging. All these things have become cliched.



Nice mellow book cover. Although it is such a classic that the cover design doesn’t really add up to the flavour. I would have read it anyway.


A must read for all those who want to know what life truly means for men. The book simplifies the whole journey to one fishing expedition.

**** 4 stars out of 5.




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