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The Ministry of Fear

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  3,212 Ratings  ·  235 Reviews
For Arthur Rowe, the trip to the charity fete was a joyful step back into adolescence, a chance to forget the nightmare of the blitz and the aching guilt of having mercifully murdered his sick wife. He was surviving alone, aside from the war, until he happened to guess both the true and the false weight of the cake. From that moment, he finds himself ruthlessly hunted, the ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 26th 1978 by Penguin Books (first published 1943)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 24, 2013 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
”Ah, he thought, Tolstoy should have lived in a small country--not in Russia, which was a continent rather than a country. And why does he write as if the worst thing we can do to our fellowman is kill him? Everybody has to die and everybody fears death, but when we kill a man we save him from his fear which would otherwise grow year by year...One doesn’t necessarily kill because one hates: one may kill because one loves...and again the old dizziness came back as though he had been struck over t ...more
Petra Eggs
Nov 26, 2014 Petra Eggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is wonderful. Elements of Brighton-boardinghouse, noir, absurdist, amnesiac, crime and spy genres, leavened with (pre) echoes of The Prisoner and 1984 and even Kafka's The Trial. This book is written with Orwell's general satirical edge, even if only a slight one, is definitely the most entertaining book I've read in ages. I'm so enjoying it.

I really love good writing for it's own sake and when that's married to plot and characterisation, it becomes a book you can't put down. And at the spe
...more
Agnieszka
Oct 06, 2013 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

In Ministry of Fear Graham Greene, in disguise of noir thriller, delves favorite and crucial to his work themes. Responsibility for own actions, blame, sin, sense of guilt, duty, morality.

Who is a bad man , condemned and pilloried by society merciful murderer of choice or maybe out of necessity ? Or maybe rather people acting in the name so called good of humanity and by the way not respecting an individual human life ? Is it wrong to relieve the suffering of terminally ill person ? Does a m
...more
Supratim
This story takes to London during World War II. The air raids have reduced neighbourhoods to rubles; people seek refuge in the shelters – there is destruction and desolation everywhere. The author did not go overboard in depicting the destruction yet it was so effectively portrayed.

We get introduced to our protagonist, Arthur Rowe, at the very beginning of the story when he attends a fete. Rowe is man who clings to his happy childhood memories – he gets drawn to fetes with a childlike innocence,
...more
Susan
Mar 31, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel has one of the best opening chapters of any novel I have ever read. Arthur Rowe is a repressed and guilt ridden man, living out the war in a London boarding house with little companionship. So, when he comes across a rather sad little wartime fete, he is eager to recall the memories of childhood it evokes. During the fete, a misunderstanding means that he wins a cake. However, the cake was never meant for him and his sudden lucky prize has consequences he could never have anticipated. ...more
Mala
You'll never look at a cake the same way again! Greene's repeated mentioning of this common noun sent a subliminal message- eat cake!, & so I went ahead and baked one. I guess this is how one gets to have one's cake & eat it too!

The Ministry of Fear is a very mood-driven,atmospheric book,a slow burn. Don't expect it to thrill you with set action pieces; the thrill here comes mainly from seeing the plot unfold through the eyes of a protagonist driven almost paranoid with past guilt and pr
...more
Nigeyb
Apr 09, 2014 Nigeyb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Innocence, patriotism, self-delusion, psychology, memory, complexity, love, deceit and heroism

A perfect book: accessible, clever, beautifully written, evocative, tense, and quietly profound. A palpable sense of dread and unease runs throughout the story set in the early years of World War 2 in England, primarily London.

On one level the book is a simple story of espionage, fifth columnists, and a hapless man who gets caught up in things he does not understand however there is far more to it than
...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
BrokenTune
Aug 15, 2015 BrokenTune rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
In that case,’ Rowe said, ‘I keep the cake because you see I guessed three pounds five the first time. Here is a pound for the cause. Good evening.’
He’d really taken them by surprise this time; they were wordless, they didn’t even thank him for the note. He looked back from the pavement and saw the group from the cake-stall surge forward to join the rest, and he waved his hand. A poster on the railings said: ‘The Comforts for Mothers of the Free Nations Fund. A fête will be held . . . under the
...more
Sketchbook
Mar 28, 2014 Sketchbook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Furst, intro, says this is fine reading on trains-planes. Who is this asshole? I piss on him.
Cbj
Jan 27, 2017 Cbj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
***SPOILERS ALERT***

It is amazing how much Greene packs into a 200 page novel. Every time I finish reading a Graham Greene novel, I feel like I have read a really large book, even though most of his books are only 150-300 pages long.

The Ministry of Fear begins at a fete. A nostalgic man, Arthur Rowe aimlessly roams around the fete enjoying the sights and the sounds and then he wins a cake, after a fortune teller tells him its exact weight. But soon, Rowe begins to feel that people are out to st
...more
Helen
Sep 02, 2009 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ll
We're in London, it's World War II, and Arthur Rowe, the book's main character, is lured out of his apartment and across the street by a church carnival. He goes in the hope of recapturing a little happiness.

Here's the thing; sad, gentle Arthur Rowe is a murderer. He has just been released from jail for the mercy killing of his wife, who was suffering from an agonizing, incurable disease.

One of the attractions at the carnival is a prize cake, made with real eggs and butter, to be won by guessing
...more
Leslie
I really like this subgenre of thrillers - where an innocent bystander gets involved with espionage or criminals by mistake or accident. Graham Greene has created a masterpiece of this type including the romance with someone who might not be trustworthy... or is she? Read it and find out!

Even though Greene himself didn't take his thrillers as serious writing, his skill with words is evident throughout this novel. Just one example:

"Her voice was dry like an old portrait: the social varnish was c
...more
Trevor
Jan 23, 2013 Trevor rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, own-copy
Graham Greene at his best.

This book was a delight to re-read, and I think that I enjoyed it even more on this second reading. All of the typical Greene themes are present - guilt, intrigue, ones own responsibility, betrayal, oppression and more, all set against London in the blitz. This is a wonderfully intriguing and thought provoking story, which is difficult to put down. The characters are wonderful from the lead Arthur Rowe, the fortune teller, the nazi spies through to the mysterious doctor
...more
James
Jun 26, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, fiction
A man with a harrowing past buys a cake during the London blitz and it all goes horribly wrong for a while. While the book is super in many ways my favourite bit is highlighting the sinister undertones that I have long felt at any fete. In this case it is being run by nazi fifth columnists whose love for cake is only matched by their love for needless complexity.
Greg
Mar 19, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Now to find the film. (No pun intended.)
Jonfaith
Mar 30, 2011 Jonfaith rated it liked it
A weird if flawed meditation on morality and sanity in times of acute distress. I should consult my Norman Sherry but this one appears penned with a screenplay in mind.

Personally this conjures a blitz of memories. My good friend Steve once lived with a plucky poet by the name of Jennifer Priest. This all ended in an explosion of jealousy. I went over to comfort both of them in the aftermath. Jennifer was reading Ministry of Fear at the time. I wasn't overly familiar with Greene at the time. Igno
...more
Laura
Jan 10, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From IMDb:
Stephen Neale has just been released from an asylum during World War 2 in England when he stumbles on a deadly Nazi spy plot by accident, and tries to stop it.


A movie was made based on this book and it's available at YouTube.
Val
Mar 22, 2014 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: byt-main
The story starts with a mix-up over a Guess the Weight of a Cake competition at a small garden fete and we know immediately that this is one of Graham Greene's 'entertainments'. It rapidly becomes a tense thriller, with fifth columnists, people not being who they seem, a murder which isn't and some which are and a pretty girl who falls for the 'hero'. It is not a bad thriller, there are enough twists to keep reading and there are a few unlikely coincidences, which you could read quickly past and ...more
Alan Marchant
Jul 26, 2009 Alan Marchant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeanette
Feb 28, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Psychologically gutsy and cleverly brainy to a 5. And classy too as it is from the era when you actually didn't have to read long descriptions of or "see" guts or brain matter. I'd read it before, maybe more than 3 decades ago, as I have other Graham Greene. But did not remember most of this particular plot, which WOULD make and DID, an excellent movie. Bad guy or good guy? Friend or enemy? I cannot remember. And the blitz was, to me, the other main character. More than the girl. It is not an ea ...more
Daniel Villines
Dec 27, 2013 Daniel Villines rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Graham Greene's writing always strikes me as a force where comprehension is achieved through saturation rather than trough the reconstruction of grammatical elements. He writes in terms of feelings and emotions and he understands how these almost-spiritual elements of the human condition can change and coexist all within a moment. And he makes these complexities real by providing the reasons and justifications that his readers need to understand his constantly changing characters. The Ministry o ...more
Fiona
I bought this on the strength of the back cover, which reads:

For Arthur Rowe the charity fete was a trip back to childhood, to innocence, a welcome chance to escape the terror of the Blitz, to forget twenty years of his past and a murder. Then he guesses the weight of the cake, and from that moment on he's a hunted man, the target of shadowy killers, on the run and struggling to find the truth.

Oh, Graham. So much promise, and yet you clearly wrote this on such an imminent deadline. Good holida
...more
Jim
Jan 23, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Greene’s “entertainments”. When I first started reading it the author who came to mind was Kafka but as I got into the book I started to think this was more like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest or even more like John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps all of which have two things in common: firstly, an ‘innocent’ gets caught up in a world he had no idea he existed that runs parallel with his own and secondly, he has to embark on an ‘adventure’ to clear his name when he’s wrongly accuse ...more
Tim
Oct 05, 2015 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, england
I got almost halfway through this before giving up on it. It is not that it was a bad book or poorly written, but I just couldn’t get into the mood of the story, and I found a couple of the narrative decisions a little irritating. The story takes place during the London blitz and attempts to recreate the crazed atmosphere of a city under attack, with death, destruction, and deceit popping up everywhere. Greene seems to find a kind of dark humor in this milieu, which I did have some appreciation ...more
Janet
May 10, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again, a minor work of a great author--do you give it four stars for being not as good as his major work, or five because what it does it does phenomenally well? An early novel, set during the London Blitz, opening up the great Greene themes of the exotic--although it's London, it's a London that's made exotic--Pico Iyer says that Greene only liked England in wartime. Where buildings disappeared overnight, the ruins marked by signs indicating where bombed businesses relocated. Where you regularl ...more
Benjamin
May 24, 2013 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a Graham Greene fan. This is the sixth book of his that I have read, including a mix of the more serious, well respected books and the less serious entertainments. This one definitely falls into the later category, although I have to say that the writing and pacing is still quite good. Unlike Orient Express, which was slow going for the first few segments before it takes off, this one grabbed you from the start. Part of it is that it is a telling of my favorite kind of story, the same story ...more
David B
Jan 09, 2014 David B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Rowe, an inhabitant of wartime London during the Blitz with a terrible secret, visits a fair one day on a lark, setting in motion a chain of events that will thrust him into a shadowy world where nobody, not even oneself, is quite what they seem. Graham Greene is an extraordinary writer, painting fully developed characters with great economy of language. He is also a master of atmosphere; I have rarely encountered an author who so skillfully develops an ambiance of fear, paranoia, and reg ...more
Martin
Mar 31, 2015 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really easy read. All espionage thrillers should be this good. Philosophical at times, exploring the themes of Innocence of Youth, Paranoia, Perception and Memory, with some plot elements reminiscent of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and Franz Kafka's The Trial.
Ali
Aug 28, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ministryoffear

Read for the #GreeneforGran reading tribute, only my third Graham Greene novel ever and my second read for #GreenforGran. I read Stamboul Train earlier this month, which I also enjoyed. This novel is one of Graham Greene’s thriller style novels rather than one of the more literary offerings. I am now quite keen to read some of those novels which are considered among his best. I have certainly found that I enjoy his style of writing.

The Ministry of Fear is a quick enthralling read –
...more
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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
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“But it is impossible to go through life without trust; that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.” 284 likes
“Her face looked ugly in the attempt to avoid tears; it was an ugliness which bound him to her more than any beauty could have done. It isn't being happy together, he thought as though it were a fresh discovery, that makes one love--it's being unhappy together.” 227 likes
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