Customer Reviews for

The Garden of Eden

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2002


    A posthumous work, possibly Hemingway's finest achievement. This tender love story about a torrid triangular relationship is unlike any of his better known books. A surprisingly modern novel in which the famously 'macho' author gets in touch with his feminine side, it caused quite a stir in literary circles when first published in 1986; not least for its erotic hedonistic content. Set in early 1920s, young lovers David Bourne, a writer, and his beautiful wife Catherine are enjoying an idyllic honeymoon on the French Mediterranean coast ... until David decides it's time to get back to work again on his next book. Fun-loving Catherine, a bit of a rebellious wildchild at heart, soon begins to resent her husband's writerly solitude. When he shuts himself away alone in his study to work (unfortunately, it's what us writers have to do!) she starts to go recklessly out of control. Catherine's suppressed bisexual feelings begin to surface, as does her self-destructive nature and worsening mental condition. As Catherine starts to explore her sexuality, she involves David in a dangerous erotic game with another young woman she herself is attracted to and is willing to share with her man. David is a more sensitive male protagonist than the archetypal strong, silent main characters of Hemingway's other fiction; without a war, maybe this is why. Catherine, who is living on the edge of madness, is a lot like that other damaged Catherine (Barkley) in A Farewell To Arms. The romantic Provence setting is enchanting and makes you want to visit the tiny seaport village of le Grau du Roi; I did, actually, but found it disappointingly touristy (as most famous places in fiction are apt to be nowadays) and is no longer the quiet, sleepy, undiscovered Eden depicted in the novel. Hemingway himself honeymooned there with his second wife Pauline and the events in the story are based loosely on his memories of this Mediterranean trip. The Garden of Eden was a labour of love for Hemingway, a novel he worked on on-and-off over the last 15 years of his life between other books that were published such as The Old Man and the Sea. Some critics who have read the entire unfinished manuscript at the John F. Kennedy Library were unhappy with the way it was whittled down in shape to a third of its original size for the final published version. Others, like myself, who haven't yet viewed the manuscript, think Scribners editor Tom Jenks did a wonderful job cutting and condensing to make it such a beautiful book. That 'one true sentence' Hemingway strove so hard to write has never been so apparent as in this deceptively simple sparse prose; easy to read is hard to write, trust me, and I'm in constant awe of what Hemingway was able to achieve with this, his greatest work, I feel. Lastly, did you know that the unedited manuscript also followed the story of another young couple, whose lives intertwined with David and Catherine? Nick Sheldon, a painter, and his wife Barbara, who were living in a small rented apartment in Paris and were modelled on Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. These other two central characters probably got the chop because their storyline wasn't developed enough - or perhaps the story didn't work as well with them in it. Who knows? Maybe one day Scribners will publish the original manuscript in its entirety. I hope so, but doubt it. Let's just be thankful for what we do have.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2004


    I picked up this book on a whim before leaving on a 20 hour bus trip and never regretted it. As a close friend said after reading it, 'no wonder he killed himself after writing this, how could you ever hope to top it?' A truly wonderful and touching story, with characters both real and surreal, perfect.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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