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True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir | [Ernest Hemingway]

True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir

A blend of autobiography and fiction, the book opens on the day his close friend, Pop, a celebrated hunter, leaves Ernest in charge of the safari camp and news arrives of a potential attack from a hostile tribe. Drama continues to build as his wife, Mary, pursues the great black-maned lion that has become her obsession. Spicing his depictions of human longings with sharp humor, Hemingway captures the excitement of big-game hunting and the unparalleled beauty of the scenery.
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Publisher's Summary

Both revealing self-portrait and dramatic fictional chronicle of his final African safari, Ernest Hemingway's last unpublished work was written when he returned from Kenya in 1953. Edited by his son Patrick, who accompanied his father on the safari, True at First Light offers rare insights into the legendary American writer.

A blend of autobiography and fiction, the book opens on the day his close friend, Pop, a celebrated hunter, leaves Ernest in charge of the safari camp and news arrives of a potential attack from a hostile tribe. Drama continues to build as his wife, Mary, pursues the great black-maned lion that has become her obsession. Spicing his depictions of human longings with sharp humor, Hemingway captures the excitement of big-game hunting and the unparalleled beauty of the scenery: the green plains covered with gray mist, zebra and gazelle traversing the horizon, cool dark nights broken by the sounds of the hyena's cry.

Who's your papa? Listen to more from Ernest Hemingway.

©1999 All Rights Reserved; (P)2007 Simon and Schuster Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What the Critics Say

"Twentieth-century American literature could not end on a brighter note than the publication of this book." (Library Journal)
"Amusing, moving, and of treasurable importance to an understanding of this massive, however flawed, genius of our literature." (Kirkus Reviews) "A major literary event. In addition to the book's intrinsic pleasures, it provides a new window into the tantalizing, unsettling, oceanic world of his experimental, unfinished late work." (Newsweek)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (37 )
5 star
 (14)
4 star
 (12)
3 star
 (5)
2 star
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1 star
 (1)
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3.8 (17 )
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4.1 (18 )
5 star
 (9)
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3 star
 (2)
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Performance
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  •  
    Dr. Rolling Hills, CA, United States 08-21-12
    Dr. Rolling Hills, CA, United States 08-21-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
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    4
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    Performance
    Story
    "Sad last book"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Maybe if Hemingway had written it when he was younger, before booze and adulation had addled his brain. Or perhaps if he had time to edit and rewrite it himself.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I would never presume to 'change' Hemingway.


    What about Brian Dennehy’s performance did you like?

    Mellow, precise, deep voice. As you would imagine Hemingway to speak.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Poor old Papa's reputation would have done better without the publication of this book. When you take yourself this seriously, it is really hard to be humerous. Hem's 'kitten talk' with Miss Mary (also full of herself) is pathetic. His 'snappy repartie' with GC is devoid of wit. The hunting scenes are good but he has done them many times before and they have a recycled feel. The best of the book comes when he reads a critical letter and a newspaper clipping from one of his readers and shortly afterwards reflects on an old flame who became rich. The critic hit the nail on the head better than I can: Hemingway's subsequent tirade, I suspect, comes from the heart and therefore has at least some validity.
    For those grieving that Ernest's death robbed us of some great unwritten literature, do not (don't?) worry: his best had long passed, and he knew it. Hemingway is better read than listened to, but Dennehy does the best possible job with the material. I like him as an actor and I shall now search him out as a narrator.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    03-13-08
    03-13-08 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "Something Missing"

    Hemingway always leaves you wanting more, but this book does not seem to close in the same fashion. Would have been 4 or 5 stars without the last section.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tamrya Nash OKC 07-08-12
    Tamrya Nash OKC 07-08-12 Listener Since 2005

    Lab Lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    15
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    "Not good for audible"

    This provided way more in written form. The story itself is decent, but just does not make for a good audible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steyn Wierdapark, South Africa 09-01-11
    Steyn Wierdapark, South Africa 09-01-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    10
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    "Expected much more"

    I expected a story and kept on listening until 3/4 through it, but to me, this was just scribbling of the author in his dairy with no relevance to the reader.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Silver Spring, MD, United States 02-14-11
    Jeff Silver Spring, MD, United States 02-14-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Overall
    "Good match of author and narrator"

    A serious Hemingway fan, I have been unable to read this book from beginning to end. Dennehy's flat voice is a perfect match to the often self-parody prose of the novel. As a captive audience of one as I commute each day, I have found that the audiobook has made it possible to enjoy this book in a way that the novel itself does not.
    (None of the foreign words Hemingway employs really make or break any plot points, but it's worth checking the glossary at the end of the print edition for a fuller understanding of his pidgin-Swahili.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Hong Chatsworth, GA 07-31-09
    Richard Hong Chatsworth, GA 07-31-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Boring"

    I so wanted to enjoy this book. Hemingway's works are suppose to be classics. This is my second book by this auther. The first "Old Man and the Sea" was just barely tolerable. This one was just plain boring. I'm an outdoorsman and wanted to feel the excitment of Africa and the hunt. Sorry this book doesn't do it for me.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
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  • Mercadier
    Plymouth, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Hemingway, I Presume?"

    Hemingway is one of the greatest authors of all time and the narration of this book is excellent. It is an interesting account of Hemingway's life in Africa with his wife, Mary. If you have already read or heard Garden of Eden, which is also available on audible, you should definitely try this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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