I first read this book about 22 years ago and as I recall I liked it fairly well. After a re-read today, I came away quite impressed. Hemingway's "spare, muscular prose" is present here but it is not particularly evident unless you focus on it.(It really rarely is). The story is one of will, of perseverance, of man vs. nature and the often bitter results of even victories in the end. The character of Santiago was a very good one and the scenes depicting the battle between Santiago and the great fish are unforgettable. I thought the Christ imagery was laying it on a bit thick but what do I know. I'm not nearly as manly as Hemingway.
I highly recommend this book and further suggest that you ignore the otherwise eminently reasonable Richard when dealing with Hemingway generally and this book in particular (also possibly Plato).