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Stamboul Train

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  1,885 ratings  ·  176 reviews
As the Orient express crosses Europe, it seems to draw a trail of lust, murder, revolution and intrigue from Ostend to Constantinople ...
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 25th 1983 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1932)
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Steve
If T.S. Eliot, during his Prufrock-Sweeney-Wasteland days had sat down to write a novel, it might have come out looking like Graham Greene’s Orient Express (or, my preferred title, Stamboul Express). Written in 1933, this early novel was considered by Greene to be one of his “entertainments.” I’ve always felt this tag by Greene to be a ridiculous one. It may be a lesser novel, but it’s certainly well-written fiction. In this case, Greene throws a bunch of strangers together on a train in Ostend, ...more
BrokenTune
Review first posted on BookLikes:


"I’m tired of being decent, of doing the right thing."

Stamboul Train is the story of a number of individuals who are thrown together within the confines of a train journey - a microcosm, in a way - and Greene offers us a peek into the relationships that develop between the characters and the difficulty that each of the individuals has to adapt to the society they form.

It took a while to get into the story - just because every character has a story about how they
...more
Paperback Percy London
Not GG's best outing but very entertaining all the same. His fourth novel. I really liked the Mabel Warren character, she reminded me of Beryl Reid in 'The Killing of Sister George', I do love it when older posh people swear, so elegant.

Was confused about Myatt, the Jewish currant seller who is subject to anti-semitism. He's a knight in shining armour, a spoiler of maidens and happy to marry for money and convenience. His recollections of Spaniards Road were bizarre, drunken girls offering them
...more
Rick
Strong entertainment that works better on reflection than it does as a compelling mystery or thriller. Makes excellent use of the device of a long train trip to bring together disparate characters who have little or nothing in common beyond their capacity to get mixed up with one another and with forces that make ironic havoc of their lives: a chorus girl, a Jewish merchant, a lesbian journalist and her companion, a thief who becomes a murder, a revolutionary doctor who misses his rendezvous wit ...more
Cynthia
3.5/5

I love Greene. He has a way of capturing your attention right from the beginning and 'orient' is no exception. I felt it was marred by the somewhat weak ending and the incessant anti-semitism was horrible. I think this was first published in '33 and if it was reflective of the attitudes of the time it throws light on how Hitler was able to succeed.
Ali
I found Stamboul Train to be a wonderfully atmospheric read, a well written adventure peopled with a variety of complex characters, several of them quite deliciously sinister. I do so like to be transported with a novel, and Stamboul Train was able to do just that wonderfully- and not just because it is set aboard the famous Orient Express. It has always been a bit of a fantasy of mine – to travel across Europe aboard the Orient Express, I’d require a first class ticket and a set of matching 193 ...more
GwennieA
A between-planes airport purchase.

I chose it because the introduction is by Christopher Hitchens, but I was disappointed with his intro: He went on & on about the stereotypical Jew character & the character's relationship to the times (the book was written in 1932)...HOWEVER - there is a dyke character! who is a successful journalist (though not as successful as she would wish)and a heavy drinker and picks up mistresses for cohabitation!!! Hitchens paid her ZERO attention!!!! What about
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Joseph Rice
I think the folks accusing this book of being anti-Semitic are not reading it through. Sure, Greene uses some phrases and physical descriptions that don't quite mesh with our modern day sensibilities, but the main Jewish character is the primary hero of the book. The one man who is decent to the end, even if he isn't entirely pure.

The political events swarming around the time period of the book are rather breathtaking at times. Revolution has a tendency to do that, I suppose, but it feels real.
...more
Shane
Greene’s early “entertainments” were not as fluidly written as his later “catholic” novels, and that is evident when reading this book. Stamboul Train was probably intended as a screenplay, for it unfolds like one, with constant scene shifts, point of view shifts, and movement. The novel moves like the famed train from Ostend through several stops to its final destination in Constantinople. Snatches of dialogue hit the reader like overhead conversations in a dining car. What the camera will not ...more
Charity
Must read for college English Lit students. Graham Greene's book was a surprise (though recommended by former Poet Laureate Dana Goia.) I came expecting an action novel, a psychological thriller, & thought this slim novel would be easily forgotten. After a slow beginning (due in part to blindness caused by preconceptions), it dawned on me that this was a novel after the old school traditions. Greene deals with "big questions," such as: what does it mean to be good, what makes a human being h ...more
John
I would categorize this one as a very long short story, not even a novella, let alone a novel. Slow to start, though the second half has plenty of tension. The casual, matter-of-fact antisemitism managed to both shock and bore me at the same time. Greene sure did know how to put together an interesting mix of characters!
Bill
Nice to read Graham Greene again. He has a way of unfolding a story. It's basically a series of events on the Orient Express from Ostend to Constantinople, how the lives of varios people intertwine; who gets on where and their stories. Loved it.
Manfred
Warning: Contains Some Spoilers!


Probably my least favourite visit to Greeneland yet. Stamboul Train is billed as one of Greene's entertainments but I didn't find it terribly entertaining and the ending was to my thinking unsatisfactory.
There is a very entertaining book trying to escape from this one and in it the character Josef Grünlich takes centre stage. He was someone I wanted to know more about, a thief who turns murderer/confidence trickster, a man with an extremely high opinion of his ow
...more
Judy
This was Greene's fourth novel - and by now he was really coming into his own as a writer. The book is set aboard the Orient Express travelling between Ostende and Vienna in the early 1930s, and was Greene's first novel to be set in the real world of his present day. I enjoyed the way he keeps switching viewpoint between several different characters.

Greene originally categorised this as an "entertainment" and it was filmed, though I haven't seen the movie, which seems to be very hard to get hol
...more
Steven Brown
Fascinating 1932 exploration of human interactions through focus on three characters on the train to Istanbul: a young and impoverished British dancer, a young and wealthy Jewish businessman and a mysterious middle-aged doctor/teacher that no one quite believes is really British. In addition to the main characters and their dramas, Greene satirizes other, mainly British, types. Though Greene considered it an "entertainment" rather than one of his "novels", the book's prose is crisp, evocative an ...more
Darwin8u
With themes of sacrifice and betrayal Greene's Stamboul Train/Orient Express/Stamboul Express is able to provide a moving bio-dome of the human experience on this train headed to Constantinople. There is a definite reason trains are so often used in literature and film. The sealed quality, the movement, the modernity gives the writer room to experiment with characters and themes in a way that others settings would make difficult.

This isn't a major Greene novel. Greene definitely wrote better as
...more
Richard
Greene's prose is dense and full of lively detail--he populates this book with interesting characters that will keep your attention. But while his insights into characters are deep, they tend to be negative, with stereotypes and cynicism intertwined. It is difficult to tolerate some of Greene's descriptions of the "Jew"--I suppose one can view this as a product of a historical time period. Greene is an Englishman, and his description of characters is filled with observations of class, race and n ...more
Bridget Weller
Remarkable improvement in the three years since the man within. He claimed to have deliberately written this one to please, and the fact he succeeded makes me feel like I've been shown up as a dreadful pushover as a reader, dazzled by cheap glass trinkets. That, in turn, would only reinforce one of the basic premises of the book, which is that women primarily hang around waiting around for glass trinkets, not seemingly capable of deeper or loftier thought. Mind you, the vast majority of the men ...more
Jennyb
I finished this book two days ago, and I think it will be... forgettable. Especially at the beginning, it is SO SLOW. Even when the pace picks up and the characters develop a little, it is still difficult to really feel caught up in the story. Part of the reason for this is how dated and archaic the narrative now seems, and another part is Greene's writing style. Vaguely similar to James, Greene is precise, detailed and finely nuanced. Reading his writing is like someone from a tropical land try ...more
Dzino
My high rating is, admittedly, mostly influenced by the book's appeal as a believable, engaging thriller. Others may dispute its literary merit, though I appreciate Greene's ability to explore the minds and motivations of his characters without drowning his story, as so many acclaimed authors do, in seemingly aimless and endless reflections. Some may feel that the book ends a little too neatly, even happily for several of the characters -- yet to my mind Greene did this on purpose. It's as thoug ...more
Tsam
Hmm, whilst I'm a fan of Greene and have been for some time, I must confess to being left a little cold after finishing this short little thriller set on the trans-Europe service heading to Istanbul.

Perhaps it was just me, but I couldn't help but feel that the only real plot developed well into the book, by which time I was a little too bored to care much about it. The characters aboard the train are clearly supposed to be entertainment in of themselves, but truthfully, for me at least, they fel
...more
Rose
Apr 25, 2010 Rose added it
Shelves: 2010, fiction
Frankly, I don't understand what makes this a spy novel. I didn't find a single spy. Mendacious chorus girls, crazy alcoholic lesbians, hungry soldiers, socialist agitators, Jewish currant-merchants, self-important authors, mad Turkish drivers, protocol-obsessed court-martial officers, uncatchable criminals who climb buildings like Spiderman...yes to all of those. But spies? No.

I would recommend this, with the caveat that it contains a fair amount of anti-Semitism.
Owain
It took me far longer than it should have to finish this book. I just found it hard going, and I'm not sure whether it's me or the book who's at fault. I felt as if the plot rambled at times and although there were good sections of prose and character introspection I still found it a little tedious. I also found the ending a little inconclusive.

This story has less direct contact with politics and religion than other stuff I've read by Greene and only brushes slightly with the subjects. I also go
...more
Jane
I’m not sure about this book. Is it just Agatha Christie with attitude by someone who has a better turn of phrase ? To me it seemed a slight offering from a great writer

What Greene does achieve is a strong sense of this particular long haul train journey (and what a journey!) and he successfully introduces an eclectic cast of colourful characters on to his stage.

In places Stamboul Train does have you on the edge of your seat, but for me the tension is sporadic and ,using the journey as a structu
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John Gurney
Graham Greene crams a continental express train with a distinct group of characters: chorus girl, lesbian journalist, murderous safe-cracker, Jewish businessman, pulp novelist, and socialist doctor traveling under a fake identity. They intersect and interact in Greene's many plot turns. Passion, tragedy and intrigue occur as the train hurtles toward Constantinople (Istanbul). The setting helps make the story, especially Yugoslavia and Turkey.

The story reflects 1933 sensibilities with Carleton My
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Hanaan
This was well done. Not all of the characters or plot lines are memorable, but the main ones are and the outcome stays with you after you finish the book. Greene also does surprisingly well at describing female emotions.
Jan
There's something addictive about a Graham Greene novel and the worlds he writes about-- what Christopher Hitchens called Greeneland. In this book, the cast of characters are much like his usual, dark, driven loners awash in an alien world. Took me all of five minutes to fall under his spell. Since I have always wanted to ride on the train from France to Istanbul, this is a perfect book for me. However, I kept receiving flashbacks from the movie made of his book The Third Man with its intense cl ...more
Nathan
I wish I had read this on a train. Give it to your favorite young backpacker who wants to imagine everyone on the Eurorail murdering, plotting communist revolutions, or sleeping with each other.
Julie
Originally published in the UK in 1932 with the title Stamboul Train, this is an early work by Graham Greene, and one that he put into the category of an 'Entertainment'. Set on and off the Orient Express as it makes it way from Ostend to Istanbul, it has all the ingredients of the classic train story: a group of disparate characters thrown together in an enclosed space, wild weather, a breakdown in the snow and passage through politically unstable territory. Although classed by Greene as an ent ...more
gaby
I'll go a long way for Greene. But I draw the line at unapologetic anti-Semitism, homophobia and totally outdated gender stereotypes. PS: no spies in this book anyway !
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2533
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Ca
...more
More about Graham Greene...
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