Review: To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not too shabby for a novel that was pieced together using fragments of short-stories.

This is the second Hemingway novel I’ve read, and though I’m still not in love with his prose, I do have a greater appreciation for his dialogue.

He clears away excess descriptions, and provides raw, chunky conversations that seems out of place and yet feels very authentic. I see more and more authors stripping punctuation from their dialogue: Cormac McCarthy, The Road; Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain; and, Justin Cronin, The Passage. At first this is confusing, but after a couple of pages, I prefer it. It provides a more seamless transition from the prose, and doesn’t detract from the story.

Good dialogue allows an author to show a character’s personality quickly. It also helps with the pacing of a novel. Hemingway uses both techniques in this novel beautifully.

I’m not a fan of “he said, she said” descriptions; it’s more important to focus on building a character’s personality in the prose. If that is done correctly, when the dialogue appears, the reader will be able to discern who is speaking by the tone, style and word choice.

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