Saturday, 1 October 2011

Travels with My Aunt

Title: Travels with My Aunt

Author: Graham Greene

Number of pages: 272

Started: 27 September 2011

Finished: 1 October 2011

Opening words:

I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than half a century at my mother’s funeral. My mother was approaching eighty-six when she died, and my aunt was some eleven or twelve years younger. I had retired from the bank two years before with an adequate pension and a silver handshake. There had been a take-over by the Westminster and my branch was considered redundant. Everyone thought me lucky, but I found it difficult to occupy my time. I have never married, I have always lived quietly, and, apart from my interest in dahlias, I have no hobby. For those reasons I found myself agreeably excited by my mother’s funeral.
Plot summary:

Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time in over fifty years at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral. Soon after, she persuades Henry to abandon Southwood, his dahlias and the Major next door to travel her way, Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, Paraguay. Through Aunt Augusta, a veteran of Europe's hotel bedrooms, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society: mixing with hippies, war criminals, CIA men; smoking pot, breaking all the currency regulations and eventually coming alive after a dull suburban life.

What I thought:

This book started well, and had me chuckling almost straight away.

This was despite the setting being a cremation. You are introduced to Aunt Augusta, a larger than life figure who clearly is not interested in complying with social norms or the demands of society. She also has no sense of discretion and without even the bat of an eyelid tells Henry that the woman whose funeral they were at was not in fact his mother, which he had believed to be the case until that moment, but his step-mother. Henry took the news remarkably well, but is then promptly led astray, and all over the world, by his aunt.

It was a well –written book and is another good example of Graham Greene at his best. I usually prefer his “Catholic” novels, which this was not. However, by the end of the book, I thought the joke had worn a bit thin.

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