The Garden of Eden, A Book Review

I hope I’m not offending a dead author here, but I struggled a bit through The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway.

Not that the writing is hard–Hemingway is known for his simplicity, but the style is all his, and though I’ve tried, I haven’t fully been able to enjoy it in any of the novels I’ve chosen or been required to read by him.

I read The Garden of Eden over the course of several months. It sat by my bed taunting me on nights when I couldn’t sleep, and yet, it wasn’t exactly the nighttime elixir I wanted. Hemingway is an acquired taste that maybe I haven’t breached, but it doesn’t mean I won’t try again with another work of his.

The Garden of Eden is the story of a young couple, a writer named David and his quirky new bride, Catherine, frequently referred to as “Devil” as the story evolves, who spend some months in the South of France and Spain in the 1920s. While there, David struggles through writing his next book, Catherine has a crisis of identity and the two fall in love with a “darker” woman named Marita. One can only imagine the drama that will unfold as another woman is brought into the marriage, even if she is discovered by the wife. The roles of male and female and the bonds of marriage are repeatedly challenged with the backdrop of paradise on the Côte d’Azur over the course of the book.

I can see how the story would make a great movie (and there is one out there), however, I failed to follow what was happening on a page by page basis. I understand that the manuscript for this story was much longer than published, and because it was published posthumously, Hemingway did not have complete authority over editing and polishing his work. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there. Unfortunately, I still haven’t had my Hemingway ah-ha moment.

Despite my “meh” feelings toward this novel, I still recommend reading it. Many seemed to enjoy it, and Hemingway is a legend in his own right. Maybe you’ll have a different opinion.

Any of you read The Garden of Eden and loved it?

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