Tuesday, 12 July 2011

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (3/5)

The back says: Henry Morgan was hard, the classic Hemingway hero. He had to be hard, rum-running, gun-running and man-running from Cuba to the Florida Keys in the Depression. He ran risks, too, from stray coastguard bullets and sudden doublecrosses. But it was the only way he could keep his boat, keep his independence, and keep his belly full…

I say: A part of me kind of liked this, another part didn’t like it at all, and a third is wondering if most of it didn’t just go straight over my head.

I didn’t like Henry at all. Everything about him rubbed me the wrong way, because he was the eternal victim. I can’t stand people like that. He killed, robbed, smuggled and double-crossed his friends in cold blood and thought nothing of it, because “a man shouldn’t have to go hungry.” That was his excuse for everything he did.


The only redeeming quality he had was that he was committed to taking care of his family, and maybe once or twice he did think about the wellbeing of his friends before his own profit. Other than that, there was nothing. Maybe he was the product of his environment, because he did have a few misfortunes happen to him, but that’s not a valid excuse to me.

I’ve liked the other works I’ve read by Hemingway (mostly short stories), and I do like his style of writing. However, there are so many characters in this book that I haven’t the slightest idea why they were there, what they were supposed to represent and why I should even care. It’s like a kaleidoscope of random lives and no matter how I twist and turn; I can’t make any sense of them. When there are only about 20 pages left, we’re introduced to all these new characters on a yacht, and then that’s it – nothing more.

For why?

I really miss my old English Lit teacher now; he loved Hemingway and would have done an excellent job of explaining this to me, because honestly…

At least the ending was fair enough.

The reason this gets a 3 and not 1 is because the core story about Henry was interesting, regardless of his bastardly ways. If the focus had remained on him, this would have gotten an easy 4.

Aside: Racial slurs really rub me the wrong way, and this story had far too many for my liking.


  1. I know this isn't exactly a glowing review, but it has me interested. I haven't read this Hemingway novel, but I think I'd be interested in giving it a try. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, so I at least know what I'm getting myself into. :)

  2. Please do read it, cos I'd love to read what you though about it, since I'm convinced I missed something. I read a few other reviews online and half of them seemed to agree with me about how disjointed it was, and the other half loved it - but isn't that usually the deal with Hemingway; you either love him or hate him?