This is only a short book and I read it in a couple of hours. The brevity doesn’t, however, take away from it being a great tale. An old fisherman heads out to sea off his native Cuba and endures an epic battle with a Marlin, the first fish he has caught in over 80 days. He is alone at sea, his unsuccessful fishing meaning that his child partner can no longer go out to sea with him. The man faces a battle with his aging body and mind in addition to the fight he has with the graceful, strong fish. After three days of hard labor, he finally lands the Marlin. Unable to fit on the boat he has to strap the fish to the outside and, having drift far too out to sea for comfort, he faces a long struggle home, where his real battle against the elements of the sea begin. Sharks are the danger and, as the dead catch releases its scent and blood into the water, the scavengers of the ocean set out to undo the old man’s work. He repels the attacks using every weapon to hand but they are too plentiful and finally he reaches shore, with just a skeleton remaining of the giant Marlin. He is glad to be home and exhausted, he can face his community with a little more pride as from the skeleton they can tell that he is still a great fisherman.
Hemingway weaves his magic, using simple language and colorful prose imagery. He obviously has a deep love for fishing and his knowledge of the sea comes direct from his own fishing experience. The novel captures the reality of ocean-fishing and with the loneliness of the sea offset by the old man’s fondness of baseball and his dreams of lions on the beach in Africa, we read a cleverly weaved tale and it is no surprise to me that Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as a direct result of writing this masterpiece.