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Publisher Description

From a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, a brilliantly conceived and illuminating reconsideration of a key period in the life of Ernest Hemingway that will forever change the way he is perceived and understood.

Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961—from Hemingway’s pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide—Paul Hendrickson traces the writer’s exultations and despair around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar.

We follow him from Key West to Paris, to New York, Africa, Cuba, and finally Idaho, as he wrestles with his best angels and worst demons. Whenever he could, he returned to his beloved fishing cruiser, to exult in the sea, to fight the biggest fish he could find, to drink, to entertain celebrities and friends and seduce women, to be with his children. But as he began to succumb to the diseases of fame, we see that Pilar was also where he cursed his critics, saw marriages and friendships dissolve, and tried, in vain, to escape his increasingly diminished capacities.

Generally thought of as a great writer and an unappealing human being, Hemingway emerges here in a far more benevolent light. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson shows that for all the writer’s boorishness, depression, and alcoholism, and despite his choleric anger, he was capable of remarkable generosity—to struggling writers, to lost souls, to the dying son of a friend.

We see most poignantly his relationship with his youngest son, Gigi, a doctor who lived his adult life mostly as a cross-dresser, and died squalidly and alone in a Miami women’s jail. He was the son Hemingway forsook the least, yet the one who disappointed him the most, as Gigi acted out for nearly his whole life so many of the tortured, ambiguous tensions his father felt. Hendrickson’s bold and beautiful book strikingly makes the case that both men were braver than we know, struggling all their lives against the complicated, powerful emotions swirling around them. As Hendrickson writes, “Amid so much ruin, still the beauty.”

Hemingway’s Boat is both stunningly original and deeply gripping, an invaluable contribution to our understanding of this great American writer, published fifty years after his death.

Biographies & Memoirs
September 20
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

ErinOGreen ,

An engaging read

I enjoyed the linking of boat and man even though I'm not really a boat person. There's so much said about Hemingway, but Hendrickson has given the man some much needed compassion and vital humanity.

Textual errors (in the hope that someone out there will fix the digital text)
MISSPELLING: Under her portrait, this slelf-description: “Why aren’t they contented like me?”
EXTRA SPACING in lean-to: “Swiss Army knives, a mess kit, extra pairs of socks, a lean- to tent, and cans of pork-and-beans.”

FatBitFriedEyes ,

A rare view from the inside track...

The life, or more accurately, the drive behind the pen, is revealed in this wonderful inside look to how writers write, what inspires them, and why they sometimes have despair, and more importantly, a high beyond the average mortal. My daughter gave this to me and I loved it so much I gave a hard copy to her mom who was fearful that the end of the tale would be the focus. It is not; it is barely mentioned, except in context. A remarkable man; a remarkable book, especially if you are a writer, a reader, AND a fisherman. Or even the wife of one.

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