Monday, 28 February 2011

The Quiet American

Title: The Quiet American

Author: Graham Greene

Number of pages: 192

Started: 21 February 2011

Finished: 28 February 2011

Opening words:

After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the rue Catinat; he had said, ‘I’ll be with you at latest by ten,’ and when midnight struck I couldn’t stay quiet any longer and went down into the street. A lot of old women in black trousers squatted on the landing: it was February and I suppose too hot for them in bed. One trishaw driver pedalled slowly by towards the riverfront and I could see lamps burning where they had disembarked the new American planes. There was no sign of Pyle anywhere in the long street.

Of course, I told myself, he might have been detained for some reason at the American Legation, but surely in that case he would have telephoned to the restaurant—he was very meticulous about small courtesies. I turned to go indoors when I saw a girl waiting in the next doorway. I couldn’t see her face, only the white silk trousers and the long flowered robe, but I knew her for all that. She had so often waited for me to come home at just this place and hour.

Read a longer extract here

Plot summary:

Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China comes Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious 'Third Force'. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love?

What I thought:

I have a mixed view of Graham Greene’s books. Some of them I absolutely love (such as The End of the Affair) and others leave me somewhat more cold. This book rather falls into the former category. I thought this was such a well written and observed book. There were passages in it that were such a pleasure to read – the emotion that was portrayed or the observations that were made just exactly hit the spot.

It was rather a sad book, but it was a really good example of how sometimes Greene so perfectly captured the true essence of a situation and was able to portray it in such a well observed way. There were some passages that I re-read because I thought he expressed them so well. This is a book I might be tempted to read again one day.


Sarah said...

Me too! (wrt loving the book and reading again, that is.) The bit I remember most vividly is the impasse in the tower. Brilliantly observed.

This is the only Graham Greene I have read. Can you recommend my next?

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - yes I really enjoyed this book. So well written and well observed.

It is difficult to know what to recommend. I think The End of the Affair is my favourite, but if you suffer at all from Catholic guilt or don't like books with a fairly strong religious theme then it is not the book for you.

A rather more light hearted one is Our Man in Havana, but I don't think it is in the same league as The Quiet American or The End of the Affair.

Sarah said...

I am rather fond of strong religious themes... Thank you!

Random Reflections said...

Oh good. It is a fantastic book.