Reviews of Ernest Hemingway’s Books

From the Archives of The New York Times

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Featured Author: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway Collection/ JFK Library, Boston

Hemingway in Cuba.

In Our Time(1925)
“[H]is very prose seems to have an organic being of its own. . . . He looks out upon the world without prejudice or preconception and records with precision and economy, and an almost terrifying immediacy, exactly what he sees.”

The Torrents of Spring(1926)
“. . . full-blooded comedy, with a sting of satire at the expense of certain literary affectations. . . . reveals Mr. Hemingway’s gift for high-spirited nonsense.”

The Sun Also Rises(1926)
“No amount of analysis can convey the quality of ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame . . . This novel is unquestionably one of the events of an unusually rich year in literature.”

A Farewell to Arms(1929)
“[T]he Hemingway manner is arresting purely as craftsmanship. . . . seldom has a literary style so precisely jumped with the time. . . . a moving and beautiful book.”

Death in the Afternoon(1932)
“Bull-fighting, one infers, became a hobby with Mr. Hemingway because of the light it throws on Spain, on human nature and on life and death . . . . Action and conversation, as the author himself suggests, are his best weapons. To the degree that he dilutes them with philosophy and exposition he weakens himself.”

Winner Take Nothing,’ reviewed by John Chamberlain (1933)
“[The stories] ring hollow. But this need not necessarily be urged against Hemingway, for he believes . . . that we are the hollow men . . . The effect he aims at is emptiness, and to say he achieves emptiness is to praise his artistry.”

Winner Take Nothing,’ reviewed by Louis Kronenberger (1933)
“The reporting in almost all these stories is superlative; the dialogue is admirable, the rapidly sketched-in picture is vivid, whole; the way of life is caught and conveyed without a hitch. . . But Hemingway has explored it beyond its worth.”

Green Hills of Africa,’ reviewed by John Chamberlain (1935)
“. . . not one of the major Hemingway works. . . . an overextended book about hunting, with a few incidental felicities and a number of literary wisecracks thrown in.”

Green Hills of Africa,’ reviewed by C. G. Poore (1935)
“. . . a fine book on death in the African afternoon. . . . . The writing is the thing; that way he has of getting down with beautiful precision the exact way things look, smell, taste, feel, sound.”

To Have and Have Not,’ reviewed by Charles Poore (1937)
“. . . a turbulent, searching story of Key West and Havana in these strange years of grace. . . . stronger than ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ not as good as ‘A Farewell to Arms’ . . .”

To Have and Have Not,’ reviewed by J. Donald Adams (1937)
“He has moved steadily toward mastery of his technique . . . Technique, however, is not enough to make a great writer . . . There is evidence of no mental growth whatever; there is no better understanding of life . . . Essentially, this new novel is an empty book.”

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories,’ reviewed by Charles Poore (1938)
“They are still uncommonly good stories. . . . It’s strange he hasn’t written plays before — the dialogue was always there, ready to go on. . . . Hemingway still has some difficulty in confining himself to the stage’s three walls.”

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories,’ reviewed by Peter Monro Jack (1938)
“From 1921 to 1938 it has been the same short story, love and pity and pride and loneliness concealed in a brief reportage of the cruel facts. . . . The author is right: [‘The Fifth Column’] reads well, it reads like a collection of his stories. . . . but it begins and ends casually . . .”

For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ reviewed by Ralph Thompson (1940)
“. . . a tremendous piece of work. . . . Mr. Hemingway has always been the writer, but he has never been the master that he is in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ . . . his finest novel.”

Hemingway Collection/ JFK Library, Boston

Hemingway with actor Spencer Tracy on the set of the film “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Across the River and Into the Trees,’ reviewed by John O’Hara (1950)
“Here, then, is Hemingway’s new novel, a little less than perfect, but proof positive that he is still the old master.”

The Old Man and the Sea,’ reviewed by Orville Prescott (1952)
“. . . much simpler and enormously better than Mr. Hemingway’s last book . . . Here is the master technician once more at the top of his form, doing superbly what he can do better than anyone else.”

The Old Man and the Sea,’ reviewed by Robert Gorham Davis (1952)
“. . . a tale superbly told and in the telling Ernest Hemingway uses all the craft his hard, disciplined trying over so many years has given him.”

A Moveable Feast,’ reviewed by Charles Poore (1964)
“Here is Hemingway at his best. No one has ever written about Paris in the nineteen twenties as well as Hemingway.”

A Moveable Feast,’ reviewed by Lewis Galantiere (1964)
“Though this may seem at first blush a fragmentary book, it is not so. It should be read as a novel, belongs among the author’s better works and is, as ‘mere writing,’ vintage Hemingway.”

By-Line,’ reviewed by Carlos Baker (1967)
“This generous volume, which reprints 77 of his journalistic articles, is a welcome addition to the slowly expanding shelf of posthumous books by Hemingway.”

The Fifth Column(1969)
“[I]f he fails to break our hearts, exactly, his stories reach deep enough to touch them.”

Islands in the Stream(1970)
“. . . 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.”

The Nick Adams Stories(1972)
“‘The Nick Adams Stories’ neither add nor detract from Hemingway’s memory, and it is good to have a collection of the good ones, but this present arrangement does not create any new synergism.”

Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961,’ reviewed by Irving Howe (1981)
“Simply as pieces of writing to be valued for style and thought, Hemingway’s letters are not very impressive.”

Excerpts From ‘Selected Letters 1917-1961’

The Dangerous Summer,’ reviewed by William Kennedy (1985)
“Pietsch has done a wonderful editing job. Hemingway was very cuttable, and the book is indeed wonderful . . . “

The Garden of Eden,’ reviewed by E. L Doctorow (1986)
“. . . to be able to list the discrete excellences of a book is to say also it falls short of realization. . . . it is bad Hemingway, a threadbare working of the theme of a boy’s initiation rites . . .”

An Excerpt from ‘Garden of Eden’

The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway-Maxwell Perkins Correspondence(1996)
“[Although the book] offers the reader a few new insights into their day-to-day relationship, the volume, for the most part, is a disappointment.”

True at First Light(1999)
“The famous style occasionally flares into fineness but is really no more than a pretender to its former royalty . . . [It] serves as a warning to let Hemingway be, both as a literary estate and as a literary influence.”

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