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Found 12 results

  1. I thought this novel was well-written, pacy and atmospheric. The working-class world of the late 30s is portrayed quite vividly, whether trippers down from London determined to extract every last minute of enjoyment from their precious day out, or underpaid and overworked café workers like Rose, or the criminal fraternity of Pinkie and his gang in their seedy bed-sits. The relatively new bungalows strung out eastwards along the coast road are by no means depicted as visions of a bright new world (one can imagine Greene’s views) but somehow just as sad. And Pinkie. What to write? He has no redeeming features. The Catholic background seems to have imprinted certain words in his brain but they are unconnected to his actions. Right and wrong apparently have no meaning for Pinkie or Rose but for them the notions of ‘Good and Evil are stronger’. Perhaps for Rose but aren’t they nothing but a religious mantra for Pinkie? I can’t work that out. However he does seem to know that he’s damned. And then there’s the strange admixture of Puritanism: in sexual matters, his ‘soured virginity’ doesn’t come from doctrinal teachings but from his childhood experiences of hearing and seeing his parents engaged in sex on Saturday nights. He’s not a drinker either. He’s a youth so full of hatred that you almost shrink from him on the page. Buxom Ida is light relief thank goodness, and moves the narrative forward. As for Rose, I alternatively screamed at her and pitied her. Some lines stay with me. Ida says of Hale ‘He wasn’t anything to anyone, that’s the trouble.’ The inspector in the police station ‘tried to hide a tin of fruit-drops behind the telephone’. Rose’s fidelity ‘touched him like cheap music’. Yes, I admired the novel. P.S.The oft repeated ‘betwixt the stirrup and the ground’ sent me to my book of quotations: it was a line in an epitaph written in C16 by William Camden
  2. The Tenth Man is a very short book but very worth reading. Greene wrote it in 1944 while under contract to MGM but it wasn't published until 1985, whereupon he wrote an introduction for it. The prose is lean and to the point and although the book is very short - my copy is 158 pages long and that includes the introduction - the story itself feels very real and the characters very much alive. In a French prison the Germans announce that every tenth man is to be shot but that they don't care who it is that they shoot so leave it up to the prisoners to decide. Three men from this number are to be shot and the prisoners draw lots. One of those drawn to die is a wealthy lawyer who successfully trades everything he has for the right to live. There is a very sharp sting to the tail of this story and one that I wasn't able to predict. It's billed as a tense psychological thriller and it is certainly tense and psychological which makes it page turningly thrilling (as opposed to spine-tinglingly thrilling). Read in a few hours it is, nevertheless, an extremely satisfying read that does not disappoint at the end. Highly recommended.
  3. Assessments of this book vary enormously. Some say it's not one of Greene's best and others say it's one of his most chilling and captivating. I'm very interested in Haiti generally. So I'd have to say that I was enthralled. For me this book contains much of the threat, magic and mysticism of a genuine and dangerous world viewed somewhat vicariously by a number of people, some of whom are far too trusting, almost fatally so. Many of their interpretations, both of each other and of their situation, don't fit well with me and others do. For example the central character appears to me to be much too harsh a judge of himself. If the reader looks sharply at the political angle of Greene's tale it's easy to see why past readers have been disturbed by his book. I wrote a complete review here: http://www.litarena.com/thrillers/political-thrillers/the-comedians-graham-greene.php
  4. My first foray into Graham Greene since being a teenager, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Travel's WIth My Aunt for my book club meeting last week. While I found some of the connections between the characters contrived , and some of Wordsworth's dialect jarred there are very few other complaints I could have about this book. Henry doesn't travel quite as much as I thought he might from the title - the book certainly isn't a novel travelogue, but he visits some fascinating places that Greene really brings to life in the narrative. This is an easy read (although the print in the Penguin classics version I read was rather on the small side!) and completely engrossing and enjoyable.
  5. Having enjoyed in their very different ways Brighton Rock and The End of the Affair I was less optimistic about this Greene novel published in 1948. The setting is a colonial west African country (I presume Sierra Leone) during the Second World War where middle-aged Scobie is in the police force. Scobie is conscientous and not corrupt: these qualities do not make him popular among his compatriots. Ironically it is the corrupt Syrian store owner and wheeler dealer Yusef who offers him friendship, something that Scobie cannot accept. What we follow is Scobie's fall from grace - spiritually. Scobie has self-knowledge in spades. And Scobie, like his wife, is a Catholic. Scobie's marriage has gone sour. His wife, amongst other things, resents the fact that because of his incorruptibility he has been passed over for promotion. She yearns to get away from the colony and it is while Scobie pays for her to spend time in South Africa that he embarks on an affair with a young widow. Up to this point there is a momentum to this novel but in last third I have to admit it's hard-going with the deepness of Scobie's despair, and his self-questioning over his relationship to his god. I admired the novel for Greene's writing style and its subtleties but for me it was a 'toughie'.
  6. I'm less than half way through this book, and am struggling, I don't like heat, dust, sweat and insect books, and although I can recognise the skill of GG's writing I have yet to enjoy a novel of his, or feel any kind of interest in his subjects, who seem in the main to be disillusioned, isolated, defeated, and trapped middle-aged men. I nearly didn't get past the first chapter. There are five references in it to phlegm and spitting, and I get quite enough of old men gobbing on the floor at work, without having to read about it. If the second chapter had continued in the same vein I would have packed it in. Fortunately, there started to be a hint of a plot about 30 pages in, so I am perservering, but unfortunately, being of a non-conformist persuasion, I am unable to comprehend the need the villagers have for the services of a priest. Nor do I understand how having the right, consecrated, bits of equipment for the Mass validates it when he himself seems to be in such an unconsecrated state. Clearly that is an attitude which limits my access to GG's themes, but I don't think the book is going to help me deal with these questions, as I think these teaching are accepted as 'a given' in Greene's writing.
  7. In the late 1930’s Graham Greene accepted a commission to visit Mexico and write about the religious situation there. A time when the brutal anti clerical purges instigated by President Calles were destroying churches and leaving believers without the ministrations of the church. No official baptism or confessional, no funeral rites or mass. The priests in hiding travelling only in disguise. Greene starts his journey in America then crosses over into Mexico and slowly makes his way to Mexico City then on to the states of Basco and Chiapas. He doesn’t like the Mexicans he doesn’t like their brown eyes and their ability to smile in adversity. He moans a lot, though to be fair to him he has a lot to moan about. Sailing across the Gulf of Mexico on Six people in his cabin, the boat rolling all night, the only ‘privy’ The journey took forty one hours, Other journeys involved days on mules, crowded buses or a small plane whilst suffering from dysentery. Living in local hovels, rats and bugs for company. Meetings with a rebel General, an impoverished American dentist, and a Norwegian widow. Attending a secret Mass and being ignored because he was European. This isn’t a feel good book but the power of Greene’s writing, his command of language make it an enjoyable read. On the ship home he meets a German who is being held in custody en route back to Germany to stand trial. After hearing his story Greene asks “And why hadn’t you any papers?” The German replies As has been said many times before, nothing changes in this world.
  8. The first thing I discovered when I opend my hardback copy was that the sleeve was wrapped around the wrong book. I was a bit curious about why the introduction kept referring to Greene's 'The Heart of the Matter' until I realised that the book i was about to read in fact was 'The Heart of the Matter' Fortunately, scanning my shelves, eventually I found the dust jacket to 'The Heart of the Matter' and - bingo! - inside it was 'Brighton Rock' Some one or other of my sons is most likely responsible for this, at some point. Though it might have been me too. In any case, I'm glad to be about to read the same book as everone else! Gentlemen - and ladies - start your engines.
  9. "The End of the Affair", my fourth Graham Greene novel, has to be one of the more depressing books I've read in recent years. It is World War II. Writer Maurice Bendrix lives on Clapham Common, on the opposite side from civil servant Henry Miles and his wife Sarah. As part of his research for a novel, Bendrix interviews Henry, but also begins an affair with Sarah. After a tryst at Bendrix's flat one evening, it is bombed and he is apparently seriously injured. Seeing his body, Sarah thinks him dead and, despite not previously having faith, prays to God that he survives. If he does, she will break off the affair. However, she offers no explanation to Bendrix for suddenly stopping seeing him, or indeed to the reader for making such a vow in the first place. As the years pass Bendrix becomes increasingly obsessive about why their relationship ended so suddenly. Henry, becoming suspicious about his wife, considers hiring a private investigator. Bendrix, sensing an opportunity to find out more about Sarah, steps in and offers to organise finding someone. What Mr. Parkis, the investigator, uncovers is the life of a woman wrestling with the introduction of faith into her life. Why did I find this novel depressing? I suppose because so much of the misery it depicts seems entirely unncecessary. All the major characters have more or less lived their lives without faith (although it is revealed Sarah was baptized a Catholic) and it is the introduction of it that causes the characters so much anguish and triggers the disintegration of the affair itself. I'm not saying I approve of adultery, but these characters seem to do nothing but suffer. Ultimately, I found the trials and tribulations of the major characters hard to relate to, but then thankfully I have never had to go through the emotional crises they face. In fact, I found minor characters such as Parkis and Sylvia Black more likeable, and found Richard Smythe the most intriguing. The novel's preoccupation with religion is typical of much of Greene's output, which I suspect would be off putting to many readers, but if one can get past it, there is much in this novel to admire. However, I can hardly say I found it an enjoyable read. ***
  10. I was searching in my library for the BGO read Brighton Rock only to find it was the one Greene novel not there. So I took out this one instead and was instantly hooked. Written only three years before his death, Graham Greene'eThe Captain and the Enemy begins as a boy's adventure story and ends in the typical Greene country of political intrique in foreign dictatorships funded by American money, and underscoring the theme of betrayal. So, how do these disparate stories cohere into a satisfying novel? For me the answer is not at all. Part 1 is brilliant, recalling the innocent eye of a Pip or David Copperfield, essential innocents on the cusp of encountering the corrupt adult world. In many ways it harks back to Robert Louis Stephenson's Kidnapped and Treasure Island with suggestions of the innocent Oliver Twist inveigled into crime. Indeed, the fact that the hero, Victor, abducted by the Captain, is renamed Jim (after Hawkins?) indicates the affinity with RLS. Jim is liberated from the enemies at school and boring domesticity by a mysterious stranger who takes him to what the reader sees as a seedy squat in Camden Town, but which appears to the boy as a place of excitement and romance. A small detail like an abandoned comb with tufts of grey hair attached sends thrills through his nervous system. The Captain who 'treats' him in posh restaurants and hotels, never paying, always signing and making quick getaways is to Jim a kind of magician, a friendly and avuncular guide through the seedy world of the city. Parts 2,3 and 4 however are crammed with reflection and speculation. Jim is now a man, looking back and puzzled about his parentage (not puzzled enough perhaps). He too becomes a sponger, a liar and a cheat. The novel ends with him in that centre of vice and drug-dealing Greene loves so much, this time Panama, and bereft of all innocence. The Captain, Jim-Victor's protector-abductor is an ambivalent figure, a crook who is capable, like no others in the book, of undying love. The book falls into the trap, usually just avoided by Greene, of moralising and sentimentality. It ends as a spy-thriller with heavy moral overtones. Now I will get cracking on Brighton Rock for the BGO read.
  11. "Our Man in Havana" is one of Greene's lighter novels. It's a comedy about a vacuum cleaner salesman, living in Havana, who agrees to be recruited by MI6, because he needs the money to support his teenage daughters expensive tastes. Rather than actually do any spying, or recruiting any real agents, he invents a whole raft of stories and new recruits and discoveries - and then it all starts getting rather complicated.... This was a very enjoyable, slightly silly book. It has a darker side, when Wormold's lies start to cause real people to suffer, but it has little of the moral ambiguity and tortured catholicism of Greene's meatier books. (The teenage daughter is an ardent Catholic, but it's background colour, not a big, angsty theme). It was written in 1958, so it's written in the same period as the Bond novels, (which were published between 1953 and 1966) - and it gives a very different, much more cynical and weary view of international espionage.
  12. Having just finished this book for one of my RL reading groups, I came here to look for some reviews. I am amazed that we have only reviewed one of this man's prolific output, but that was very interesting to read in itself. I found The Quiet American to be a quick read. I loved the writing style which didn't seem to waste words unnecessarily, giving the writing an almost poetic feel. All the major characters were well written, except perhaps Phuong, the Vietnamese girlfriend. I felt, like you Meg, that they all had major flaws yet each had a redeeming feature too. Phuong created a lot of discussion within our group. The attitude of Vietnamese women, the period of time in which the book was set and the needs and desires of men were all areas that we touched upon in detail. This book is set in Vietnam during the French rule and on the cusp of the American intervention. It was interesting to read this book knowing what happened after the time in which it was set, and also to compare that against today's invasions of Iraq. Although the subject matter is dark and depressing, I, like most of the group, felt that the writing lifted the book to a level that gave enjoyment almost from the joy of Greene's style itself. Having only read Our Man in Havana before, and that many years ago, I think I will be reading more of Greene in the foreseeable future.
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