I’m not quite sure how I came across Islands in the Stream. I’d never heard of it. It’s one of Hemingway‘s later novels – after most of the famous ones – and it’s really, really good. I think I might have enjoyed reading this one more than any of the others I’ve read (For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises). That’s not to say that it’s the best I’ve read: I think For Whom the Bell Tolls takes that prize. The Sun Also Rises is also amazing. Islands in the Stream was just a good read. It’s as Hemingway-esque as you can get, in both content and style.
Islands in the Stream is about Thomas Hudson, a well-known artist. The novel is split into three parts, all in the Florida keys. In the first, he’s at a vacation house, and he spends his days painting and hanging out with his friends. His three sons spend the summer with him. There’s a great scene that’s very similar to The Old Man and the Sea, in which one of the sons tries to reel in an epic fish over about fifty pages. When the summer is over, the boys go back to their mothers. Then, something terrible happens. It made me cry. The second part takes place in Cuba. Another terrible something has just happened. Thomas Hudson splits his time between another house and the local bar. Hemingway also describes Thomas Hudson’s cats (modeled, I assume, on the troop of six-toed cats he loved so much) in great detail. The third part happens on a boat in the keys: Thomas Hudson is doing military work, looking for a boat-full of Germans and trying to take prisoners. It’s more about the relationship he has with his crew than what actually happens.
This novel is as beautifully written as any of the other Hemingway novels I’ve read, and I think it would be a good introduction to Hemingway because it includes some of the themes he uses often. Hemingway has written so many novels I had never heard of, and though I’ve always liked him (okay, I’m not particularly fond of The Old Man and the Sea), I’m especially looking forward to reading the huge amount of his stuff that I hadn’t read.
Bonus: Here’s a photo of Hemingway and a kid I assume is his on a boat, just as I’d imagine a scene in Islands in the Stream.