Friday, 11 March 2011

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

This short novel was written in 1937 while Hemingway was living in Key West and features another classic 'Code Hero' in Harry Morgan; A grizzled, no-nonsense charter fisherman turned smuggler. Morgan struggles throughout the book to make a living during the great depression running people and contraband from the Florida Keys to Cuba and vice versa.

Morgan is really an anti-hero; a hard drinking, dishonest and desperate man guilty of murder and not kind to his wife and children. He struggles to make ends meet in a dangerous job where he faces the constant risk of death or imprisonment. By the end of the book (which is very short) he's been involved in three separate gun fights.

The story is bleak, very bleak which I guess is appropriate due to the time in history these events are set in however it is also gripping, exciting and certainly action packed. There is dry humour too but not enough of this for my liking. Unfortunately because the book was published in the 1930s black characters are often referred to as 'niggers' which I found unpleasant but tried to ignore because of the time it was written.

All in all this is certainly not the best Hemingway has to offer but neither is it the worst. It is worth a read if you want something gritty and entertaining.

Final verdict 3/5



  1. I have yet to read a single word of Hemingway and have no idea where to start... any suggestions? This sounds ok but maybe not the best place to start as you hint.

  2. Hi Simon, thanks for your comment :o) I'm quite new to Hemingway myself and i've only read five of his books. It is difficult to choose but if pushed I would say 'A Farewell To Arms' is the perfect place to start reading his work. A close second is 'Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises' which is excellent but perhaps not typical of his work overall (or as much as I can tell from reading five books!)