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Reynolds' Hemingway #1

The Young Hemingway

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A National Book Award Finalist

" The Young Hemingway will entertain and surprise…It should rank as one of the best nonfiction books of the year." ― Los Angeles Times Michael Reynolds recreates the milieu that forged one of America's greatest and most influential writers. He reveals the fraught foundations of Hemingway's persona: his father's self-destructive battle with depression and his mother's fierce independence and spiritualism. He brings Hemingway through World War I, where he was frustrated by being too far away from the action and glory, despite his being wounded and nursed to health by Agnes Von Kurowsky―the older woman with whom he fell terribly in love.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1986

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About the author

Michael S. Reynolds

14 books17 followers
As part of Reynolds' lifelong research, aided by his wife and editor Ann, he followed Hemingway's travels through Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Key West, Fla., and visited the novelist's childhood home in Oak Park, Ill.

Reynolds served on the editorial board of the Hemingway Review. He also helped establish the Hemingway Society, which presents the annual Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for the best first work of fiction published in the U.S., and organized its biannual conferences for Hemingway scholars. The professor was particularly delighted with the 1996 conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, one of Hemingway's familiar stomping grounds, which was attended by five friends of the late author.

Internationally respected, Reynolds was consulted in 1992 about 20 newly discovered newspaper stories allegedly written by Hemingway for the Toronto Star in the early 1920s. Some of the articles, which Reynolds and other scholars authenticated, were found in the Hemingway section of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the world's leading center of Hemingway studies.[More...]

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,784 reviews1,458 followers
October 11, 2014
Oh man, the audiobook narration by Allen O'Reilly is NOT to my liking. He is reading it at such a clip I can barely keep up. After listening to a mere half hour, I am completely out of breath. I need a gulp of fresh air. Keeping up with this speed is murder.

There is nothing wrong with the author's lines.

I will try to continue with interspersed pauses.


I continued to the end, and in fact I cannot stop now, I have to immediately pick up the next book in the series:Hemingway: The Paris Years! You are left hanging. Ernest and his new wife Hadley are off to Paris; they are on the boat. Just tell me how can I stop now?! I not only want to know about his experiences in the "City of Light" but also more about Gertrude Stein and the authors and painters of the Lost Generation.

This book covers his life through his first 22 years, i.e. his life before Paris.

I grew used to the narrator's fast reading. He continues; he narrates the next in the series. This doesn't deter me, though I cannot say I enjoy the speed.

What about the book's content? It doesn't blow me over either. I feel I understand Hemingway. I know now what he lived through. I know of his youth in Oak Park (a suburb of Chicago), Illinois, which is essential to his writing. He in fact never wrote about Oak Park, but the values imbibed certainly made him who he was. His WW1 experiences as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy are also covered. His relationships with his parents and siblings too. BUT, I never felt I got into his brain. I saw through his actions and decisions his personality traits.

In a nutshell - he invented himself. Don't believe what he says. Truth is bent. All the values of his youth were forever altered by the war, even if he was only on the front line for barely three weeks. He listened to others stories and could absorb them too. He took his own experiences and that of other and reinvented them in his fiction. In fact he had trouble separating fact from his invented fiction....

The writing style is similar to Hemingway's. Similar, but not the same and not as good. Short, abrupt sentences. Repetition of words, of phrases, for emphasis.

There is an immense amount of references to how this real event appears later in this form in this novel, a fictionalizing of his own experiences. I didn't like this, but many others may. Hemingway was clearly influenced by other writers. How he was influenced by these writers is thoroughly explained. What he read year by year is covered. Authors must learn from each other; they even copy a particular style. So this is all an explanation of how he came to be the author he became. I wanted to know more of what HE thought HE had to write. I learned an awful lot about what he copied..... Do you see what I mean when I say I didn't get into his head? Sometimes the author would interpret a given action or quote and tell us what it had to mean, and I didn't always agree.

No, I don't love the book, but I need to continue anyhow. IF I could get get my hands on Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 or Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story I would choose them.
Profile Image for Adam  McPhee.
1,274 reviews211 followers
April 21, 2022
Tells the story of Hemingway from late childhood to his early twenties marriage to Hadley Richardson and their setting off for Paris. Focuses on the effect his family and hometown had on him. Appreciated the analysis of his early short fiction.

The stuff about his war service genuinely shocked me, I had no idea he wasn't actually an ambulance driver. Go figure.

Suffers a bit from clunky writing, when doing little 'sign of the times' montages or doing a Hemingway pastiche (I suppose inevitable) or when commenting on women, which was, at best, unfortunate. Also weird that he kept insisting Hemingway remained apolitical and not a radical throughout his adult life, aside from his commitment to Spanish freedom. In Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961,
Nick Reynolds convincingly makes the case that Hemingway offered his services to the Soviets as a spy and lived to become very paranoid about it during the McCarthy era, but even before these revelations, it was pretty clear that Hemingway's commitment to the Spanish Loyalists also made him at least something of a Leftist, at least for a time. Here Michael Reynolds (wait are the two Reynolds related?) offers Hemingway's lifelong cultivation of rich friends as 'proof' of his apolitical nature, but, if anything, that at best makes him a hypocrite, not apolitical.

This is no Robert Caro, but the thing is that Hemingway's life was rich enough that just getting the basic facts right offers a good read.

So, my question now: is my next Hemingway read Reynolds' Hemingway: The Paris Years or Mary Dearborn's biography?
Profile Image for Grillo.
22 reviews2 followers
September 20, 2013
In general, I find myself bored with most biographies. They are either overly tedious or inane in their detail, too dry or too glossy in their treatment of the subject. Michael Reynolds' work here is a powerful exception. The Young Hemingway captivated me as thoroughly as a novel, and rather than finding myself skipping sections and slogging through chapters, I found myself unable to pry my eyes from the pages. Reynolds does an excellent job distilling new primary sources and a lifetime of scholarship into both an extremely readable and valuable work. I feel the essence of Hemingway in this time period is more clearly evoked than in any other biographical sketch I've read. The author is also fair in his treatment of the subject. There are no axes to grind, nor are there halos around young Hemingway; he is as real on Reynolds' page as anyone we might know, and that is one of the Reynolds' major achievements here: by the end of this work, one actually feels as if they understand some real aspects of the fabled author, the myth is stripped away, and we see something very human. This is the first book in a five part series. I'm going straight out to get the next volume.
Profile Image for Lauren Albert.
1,809 reviews161 followers
August 5, 2013
A good portrait of the young Hemingway which shows the basis for his later actions without trying to be a foreshadowing, He allows you to imagine how Hemingway's life could have gone differently while still convincingly showing how Hemingway's development made sense-was grounded in his early life. He also tries to see things from other people's perspectives--especially that of Hemingway's first wife Hadley. I will definitely read the other volumes.
407 reviews1 follower
April 5, 2017
Great insights into how Hemingway's writing was shaped. Not sure I would have made it through the first 50 pages if I was not committed to learning more about Hemingway.
Profile Image for Terry.
150 reviews4 followers
April 19, 2022
Perhaps 2.5.
It is very good to see reference and discussion of the early writing efforts of Hemingway. Other biographies give the impression that this early work no longer exists. However, this author over estimates the influence this early writing had in Hemingway's development; which was actually zero.

Reynolds writes in a novelistic fashion, which makes for a flowing read, but he inserts long passages of his assumptions, guesswork, and interpretation along with information from sources, presenting the whole as though it was fact. This misdirects and misinforms the reader.

Reynolds states Hemingway decided to change his persona to the Hemingway persona we are familiar when still a teen, declaring his own natural personality as "weak". This is overstating by far. He did not begin to create a persona until many years later. All sources tell us that the Hemingway of his youth up to his mid or late twenties was the same, genuine Hemingway. Further, that this person was likeable and talented. But Reynolds seems to suggest that creating the persona and trying to become it was a good idea and necessary for success, rather than the mistake that helped in his destruction as is accepted by all of the many biographers I have read so far. It is daring for Reynolds to state this view, but he does nothing to back it up, he just states it as a fact.

Hemingway does a great job of slagging the father, but the mother's well established extreme self-involvement, rigid judgmentalism, tendency to self dramatize, and insistence on controlling others, Reynolds dismisses as "exuberance". It is always fatal to an analysis when a biographer loses objectivity in this way.

There are many interesting facts about Oak Park and the family listed in this biography, but often Reynold's research is sloppy and his editorial choices questionable. For example, Hemingway got his job with the Star though contacts, not from hanging around outside the office for days; WW1 Ace Billy Bishop was not "an American", he was a Canadian, even the most sloppy basic search would have revealed that fact; the letter of the Nurse Agnes to Hemingway is misrepresented in summary, the contents should have been quoted, whilst in other sections quotes from Oak Park newspapers are needlessly given in full; the relationship between Grace and Ruth Arnold is presented with unbelievable naivete; Hemingway's influences on his later style were more than Anderson and Stein
(and most biographers do not include Anderson), they also included Ezra Pound, Hemingway's newspaper experience, his music lessons from his mother, and study of the paintings of Cezanne (though perhaps Reynolds corrects this error in part two of his series on Hemingway).

Reynolds states that Hemingway always held to the Victorian moral codes that he was taught as a small child in Oak Park. This is not true, he changed as he lived through Kansas and Paris and the war, he changed as the world changed, he matured, he outgrew Oak Park and its narrow religiousity, and he had no desire to return, he in no way remained "a good Oak Parker". If he had, he would have lived permanently in Toronto, that "city of Churches" as Hemingway put it.

Reynolds proposes that Hemingway did not write about his home town. But whether he named it as such, Hemingway clearly wrote often about Horton Bay and the people of Oak Park, and set stories in those places. When they read the stories the Oak Park people recognized some of their neighbors, and themselves, as character models.

In another section, Reynolds insists that Hadley had no other romantic interest except from Hemingway. This is false. She had admirers before and after meeting Hemingway. This biography also states, oddly, that Hemingway never slept with a woman he did not want to marry. Yet Reynolds implies Hemingway slept with Kate Smith and Marjorie Bump; ironically, other biographies show he did have an affair with Jane Mason, and perhaps others in Paris and the following years, but not many, and without any intention of marrying them, whilst it is only speculation that he had a romance with Kate, and there is no reason at all to think he had romantic relationships with Marjorie or any other Oak Park woman. The examples presented in the above few paragraphs are just a sampling of the book's sloppy research, poor editorial choices, and questionable analysis, and of course, to repeat, Reynolds prints his guesses and assumptions as facts.

There are better books written about Hemingway's early life, one need not bother with this except to read everything written about Hemingway. I have high expectations that Reynolds' next volume about Hemingway in Paris is much better than this first effort.
Profile Image for Jim Souza.
22 reviews
August 13, 2021
Very good. This was the first of four volumes Reynolds wrote following the life of Ernest Hemingway. I have already placed a hold at my local library for his next book about Hemingway and his time in Paris. All along the way, Michael Reynolds has captured the life of a truly interesting author.
Having never read Hemingway before I am just beginning to discover how he thought and what prompted his writings. Reynolds is very thoughtful and thorough quoting from his books and letters often in every chapter. If you’re new to Hemingway, I can’t think of a better way to get to know him.
Profile Image for Joan Colby.
Author 48 books64 followers
February 7, 2017
An in-depth look at Hemingway’s early years, with emphasis on the time between his wounding in Italy and his marriage to Hadley. The author skips back and forth in time which is often distracting, however, largely the book is readable if not memorable.
Profile Image for Courtney.
465 reviews
July 16, 2018
Learned a lot about Hemingway. I have a love/hate relationship with him but I absolutely love his books. This is a great introduction to Papa’s life.
Profile Image for Dok.
5 reviews31 followers
August 23, 2023
Brilliantly researched but structured by a baboon.
Profile Image for Brian Willis.
599 reviews35 followers
June 25, 2014
To many people, Ernest Hemingway is equally as enigmatic as his books. Much like Michelangelo's theory of the marble block (the sculpture is already there, the sculptor just removes the excess marble), Hemingway removed all excess verbiage to reveal a journalistic style of narrative that described all and revealed little. "Big Two-Hearted River" seems to be a longer short story about fishing, when in fact it is a cleverly crafted examination of the causes and effects of World War I. Nothing is explicit; readers must infer and draw meaning themselves through close reading.

Hemingway's life is much the same itself. Blustering, macho, and conspicuously masculine, Hemingway became the image of global manhood, almost to the degree of becoming a caricature, such as The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials. I have a pet theory that Hemingway's lifestyle was a facade to hide deep hurt and sensitivity, perhaps even conflicted sexuality (see the life of his son, who spectacularly and flamboyantly transgressed gender lines). That evidence is here, as his mother was described as "androgynous" by Ernest himself, with his father playing a stern but subsidiary role in his life. Ernest was a rebel, and he fought his parents and his Oak Park upbringing at every turn, transgressing boundaries at every turn as described in this book.

Reynolds's first volume begins with Hemingway returning from the war, and becomes a series of examinations of areas of the author's life and upbringing in Oak Park. Reynolds breaks the traditional narrative here by jumping around in Ernest's past and describing what he would understood as the mores and local gossip of his Chicago suburban childhood. Reynolds frames that life as before and after World War I, and we follow Ernest as he examines his Oak Park life through the transformative experience of World War I. Much has changed in Ernest; little has changed about Oak Park. It's a brilliant frame and it examines aspects of Hemingway's personality that would remain hidden under a more traditional linear narrative. A slight quibble that Reynolds would remain standoffish about speculating about Hemingway's sex life, when clearly he reveals that Hemingway was reading about and fascinated by sexual relationships and gender roles. An eyebrow raising detail revealed is that Hemingway seems to have been involved with no fewer than three women at the time he decided to marry Hadley Richardson, a pattern that appears to have reoccurred throughout his life. Nonetheless, a fascinating read, one that reveals that Hemingway enjoyed fictionalizing his own life as much as the lives of others in his own fiction. Absolutely moving on to the next volume, "The Paris Years".
454 reviews6 followers
April 21, 2016
Excellent study of Hemingway's early years, ending with his marriage to Hadley Richardson and their departure for Paris. The book is very well-researched and examines Hemingway's relationships with family members, his upbringing in Oak Park, and his experiences in Italy during the First World War. Though Hemingway did not publish any novels or stories during the period covered by the book, the author does an excellent job of analyzing his early stories and he points out how later works were influenced by the early part of his life. The book is very readable and is always interesting. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jessie.
207 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2022
The Young Hemingway examines Ernest Hemingway's life from childhood to first marriage, positioning Teddy Roosevelt as his ultimate role model and delving into the impact that his father's mental health issues and his mother's rather modern attitudes had on him and his writing. I really enjoyed Michael Reynolds' style of biography, which is more of an informal narrative than a serious academic study. Reynolds' use of examples from Hemingway's fiction as an insight into his adolescent experiences was surprisingly plausible.
January 2, 2016
I read this book previously but got so much more out of it this time. Michael Reynolds has clearly studied Hemingway and presents his young years in a thoroughly analyzed fashion. Reynolds's writing is well researched and his conclusions are plausible although perhaps a little too simplistic.

This book, though, along with reading Hemingway's letters and his work, provides insight into the great writer Hemingway.
87 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2011
Thoroughly entertaining. Unlike many biographies it managed to not fall flat in any but a few areas. Soooo many typos that it actually became somewhat difficult to keep up with everything at some points. I just wonder how a respected publisher like W.W. Norton would allow that. Nevertheless, very insightful, and holds no punches when it comes to Hemingway. Can't wait to read "The Paris Years."
4 reviews
November 6, 2007
The early years of Hemingway's writing career are covered well. The author also imitates Hem's minimalist writing style in certain places, which I actually liked. I'm looking forward to the next in the series, when Hem goes to Paris.
Profile Image for Abby.
8 reviews
June 19, 2008
I love this book and the approach it takes to Hemingway - it focuses on the inner demons that would sculpt for better or worse the Hemingway that is known today.
Profile Image for Josh.
1 review4 followers
March 18, 2012
Good info on Hemingway's early years. Lots of typos and it seemed (to me, anyway) to be all over the place, at least for the first half. The second half was a page-turner!
Profile Image for Julie Fergusson.
33 reviews8 followers
September 26, 2014
Good biography to read, interesting and kept my interest . Research done by Author helps me to understand Hemingway the author, of a Moveable Feast.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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