I’m going to be honest…this is slightly embarrassing to admit…but until about five years ago, I didn’t know that Graham Greene was an author. Every time I heard the name Graham Greene, I thought people were talking about this guy, the Canadian actor with the same name.
Once I understood that it was two completely different people, I was quite relieved. Since figuring this out, I have developed a soft spot for Greene the actor. He and I both know the heavy burden that comes along with growing up in the shadow of a famous writer. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Robbie, Robert Burns is far more famous than Graham Greene.’ 😉 And that may very well be so, but I am still certain that Greene was tormented in school too!
The Quiet American by Graham Greene, copyright 1955.
Publisher: Penguin Group
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased Used
Reason for Reading: Fiona @ Book Coop
It was a review by Fiona over at the Book Coop that finally convinced me that I needed to get around to Greene sooner rather than later. I send a big thank you out to Fiona, because, as it turns out, Greene is pretty darn fantastic.
Thomas Fowler is an older, British foreign correspondent for a London based newspaper and is in Indo-China covering the French war against the Vietminh. An encounter with an American diplomat, Alden Pyle, leads to a tug-o-war between the two men for the affections of Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman. Despite the fact that Pyle is determined to win over Fowler’s girl, he is insistent that such an act should not impair relations between the two men. As the relationship and feud between the pair grows, Fowler begins to learn more about Pyle than he cares to know. It soon becomes apparent that the young American is taking advice on war tactics from questionable sources and is getting himself in deeper than he knows.
I have a tendency not to care very much for stories that are set in Eastern Asia, and, as such, I found myself somewhat less interested in the plot of this book as a result. One of the things I quite liked about The Quiet American, though, was the way in which Greene contrasted the ugliness of the war with the beauty of the country itself. I found it quite moving.
“From the bell tower of the Cathedral the battle was only picturesque, fixed like a panorama of the Boer War in an old Illustrated London News. An aeroplane was parachuting supplies to an isolated post in the calcaire, those strange weather-eroded mountains on the Annam border that look like piles of pumice, and because it always returned to the same place for its glide, it might never have moved, and the parachute was always there in the same spot, half-way to earth.” The Quiet American, page 46.
Greene would seem to be something of a master when it comes to the authenticity of his characters. He captures a believability that many other authors struggle to attain. Beyond that, I found Greene’s writing to be strikingly similar to Hemingway. The writing is both beautiful and forthright, but there is no dilly-dallying with the details. From early on in the novel I had a strange sensation that I was reading The Sun Also Rises. Both Greene and Hemingway have styles of writing that are quite flat; they lay everything on the table and, somehow, it moulds itself into something masterful.
I don’t have any other Graham Greene works on my TBR shelf, but I certainly will keep an eye out for him next time I am at the used book shop.
RATING: Hard to Bleat