A lyrical, textured, and meticulously researched meditation on Hemingway from a fresh new angle.
Paul Hendrickson, NBCC award-winning nonfiction author for Sons of Mississippi, pulls off the remarkable feat of finding a fresh, new angle from which to approach Ernest Hemingway: his boat Pilar. Purchased in 1934 with an advance from his longtime publisher Scribner, she saw him through three wives, great achievements and critical failures in his writing career, big fish and little ones, and the beginnings and the endings of many relationships. Hendrickson suggests that Pilar may have been the love of Hemingway’s life.
This is not a biography but a careful and compassionate rumination on the man through the lens of the boat. Hendrickson has brought to his readers a Hemingway who is neither object of worship nor monster, but a full and complex human who made serious mistakes in his relationships and fought pitched battles against his own demons, and finally lost.
The Hemingway fan will be enthralled with new details of his life, and the study of figures previously treated as minor but now revealing new facets of the man. The less familiar reader will be fascinated by this comprehensive account of the master and his complex spiderweb of varied effects on so many lives, large and small. Hendrickson presents his unusual and noteworthy story with beautifully quiet intensity and contemplation. Hemingway’s Boat achieves a terrific feat in reworking Hemingway’s story.
Further notes… I can’t tell you how much this book moved me. Perhaps you have noticed that pagesofjulia is a raving fan of Hemingway. I’ve read several biographies, works of literary criticism, and other spinoffs (see The Hemingway Hoax and The Paris Wife); I’m a little obsessive. But Hemingway’s Boat holds a very special place for me. Hendrickson (PH) treats Papa (EH) sort of gently, but doesn’t spare EH in his moments of monstrosity… PH comes from several different angles, interviewing different people who knew EH more or less well, unearthing some new details. PH approaches EH with the relatively unique concept that he was just a man – a great artist, but also human, with flaws and moments of everyday beauty. This book was noteworthy in all my reading of EH and the surrounding literature. It made me laugh and cry; I treasure this galley copy, where I usually pass them on as soon as I’ve turned in my review. This book alone has made my recent career as Shelf Awareness book reviewer worthwhile. (PH also recently came around here to comment on a post, which I found very exciting. Hi Paul!) I wholeheartedly recommend this book for fans of Hemingway, or of literary biography, or of well-written nonfiction, or for those looking for vignettes in Key West or Havana history.