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A Sort of Life

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  441 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews

"Writing A Sort of Life...was in the nature of a psychoanalysis. I made a long journey through time, and I was one of my characters." - Graham Greene in conversation with Marie-Francoise Allain

Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 1st 1974 by Penguin UK (first published 1971)
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(showing 1-30 of 897)
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Oct 03, 2016 umberto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
3.5 stars

This is Graham Greene's first memoir, the second being "Ways of Escape" (Vintage 2002), in which I enjoyed reading 40 years ago. I still like its paperback copy with brownish paper and hope to reread it as a tribute due to my respect after reading his excerpt from "The Power and the Glory" (chosen by TIME magazine in 2005 as one of the hundred best English novels since 1923: assigned to study in one of our literature courses in 1969; mysteriousl
May 08, 2015 Oliver rated it liked it
Greene's first volume of memoirs covers childhood, schooling, university and his early career as a sub-editor and not particularly successful novelist. Like a lot of autobiographies it's not the most structured bit of writing, and Greene is oddly impersonal and unrevealing about some aspects of his life like his marriage and his conversion to Catholicism. Some interesting stuff about the difficulties of a young writer though, and his frequent failings before eventually becoming successful.
Mar 10, 2016 Yve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in a couple hours today - in my opinion it's like the best part of any autobiography (childhood, adolescence, etc) without the drawn out enumerations of ever career stage that usually burden any artists' memoirs. He jumps around a lot chronologically and there is some reflection on writing and on his novels and plays that he would write much later than the events in this book, but it's nice and brief. I'd read anything written by Graham Greene. There's a lot of weird and funny storie ...more
Apr 11, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Greene is a good enough writer to make just about anything interesting. Which comes in handy here, because otherwise this book would be unbearable. Greene has inexplicably (at least to me) decided to make an autobiography that chronicles only the first third (and for my money, the least interesting) part of his life. Nor does he paint for the reader a very flattering picture of himself. As a young man, he was weak and often ill (both mentally and physically), suicidal, utterly pessimistic, irres ...more
Mark Fullmer
"Memory is like a long broken night," writes Graham Greene, in his sometimes poetic, often navel-gazingish autobiography. I mean sure, an autobio is supposed to gaze hard and fast at the belly, like some Japanese warrior in the final moments before sepuku, but it means that sometimes the anecdotes drip with irrelevance. At the same time, some of the stories from Greene's youth are so beautifully and touchingly rendered to make it worthwhile...if you're in the right mood.

"As I write, it is as tho
Apr 05, 2016 Annabelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookmooched-book
Greene's sort of autobiography reads like a Somerset Maugham novel, at least in its first half. It shows a very complex, confused child, suicidal even. His adventures with Russian roulette were particularly unnerving. The second half, which I found more engaging, deals with his struggles between regular work and writing. The last chapter is recommended reading for anyone who intends to pursue writing full-time.
Philip Tucker
Oct 03, 2016 Philip Tucker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational autobiography. I felt stupidly pleased with myself when Greene enthused about some the books that I had also enjoyed: Ryder Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, Stevenson's Kidnapped, Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Equally I was baffled by his fond memory of Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, which I had found a bit childish. I've since revised my view to coincide with Greene's, naturally!

But I enjoyed the final chapt
Dane Cobain
Oct 05, 2014 Dane Cobain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Sort of Life is one of Greene’s several autobiographical works, and all of them can be enjoyed independently or all at once. It’s fascinating to read about the author’s early life, including his time in Berkhamstead where his father was the headmaster of the local public school.

Here, Green covers his schooldays and his time at Oxford with surprising candour, even covering the time when he played Russian Roulette against himself to try to inject some excitement in to a life that seems fascinati
Lorna Hanlon
This is just the first part of GGs autobiog, but it is so packed with information, it's amazing it's so slim.
A model of excellence in factual writing.
Patrick McCoy
A Sort Of Life (1971) is the first volume of Graham Green's autobiography that takes the readers from his birth to the publication of Stamboul Train (aka The Orient Express) open of his biggest commercial success. Greene is one of my favorite authors and now that I've read all of his novels I've decided to embark on his autobiographies, so next up is Ways of Escape, and I might give A World of My Own: A Dream Diary a miss. I think I'll like the next installment more, since he doesn't spend much ...more
Sep 12, 2012 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A Sort of Life" is a partial autobiography. Although it was written when Graham Greene was 66 and successful, he chooses to conclude it when he was still a struggling young author. His childhood was sort of uninteresting, and he devotes far too many pages to it.
One would expect his Oxford years to be more interesting, but apparently not. His clearest memory seems to be spending one term drunk.
It gets more interesting after that.
His account of his conversion from no belief in the supernatural t
There were a few good bits in this, but it was generally disappointing. It seemed just a thrown together account of what I'm sure was really a very interesting life. I got the impression that this book was one of those painful pledges made to his publishing company.
As someone else noted, the bit about action writing was interesting:
"Action can only be expressed by a subject, a verb and an object, perhaps a rhythm -- little else. Even an adjective slows the pace or tranquilizes the nerve... But
Aug 30, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like many British authors, Graham Greene was as interesting or maybe even more so than his novels and stories. This is apparent in the first volume of his biography "Sort of Life". Everyone should read this if they want to lead a life in the arts, for Greene was a man of many talents just as Maugham or Golding or Clavell. It is so refreshing to read an author who did not retreat to the ACADEMIC trenches to catch his breath. Greene helped make the world instead of just observing it.
Jul 19, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for aspiring writers, for Graham Greene lovers, for those interested in England during the early part of the 20th century--for anyone, really, who likes clean, uncluttered storytelling evocative of a way of life that has now mostly disappeared.
Jun 11, 2008 Pa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You probalby will learn more about Greene as a person by reading his fiction, esp. the End of the Affair, the Quiet American, the Heart of the Matter, and Burnt-out Case than his memoirs, Sort of Life and Way of Escape. Sort of Life describes Greene's childhood in Berkhamsted, England, his school, his games, his fear of boredome, and his depression. Here, Greene recalled the first trying part of his writing career --his initial, instant success followed by a series of failures and self-doubts wh ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Katja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ru, kindle
A very incomplete autobiography which is mostly about the childhood and adolescence of Greene. The school and the family are described marvelously, it is a pity that the book finishes rather abruptly around the marriage time. I don't quite believe the Russian roulette story, given that Greene was afraid of so many things, as he himself admits. It's a pity he had mentioned only very briefly his psychoanalysis sessions -- with his humour, he could have made a very entertaining read out of it. Perh ...more
Ann Tonks
Although I like Greene's novels, I found this autobiography somewhat tedious.
Jul 17, 2014 Kieran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
mr. greene (a hero of mine) has written a pearl of a part-autobiography (partly, as it deals only with his youth). but it is a classic. being in brighton recently reminded me of greene, which again reminded me of this book. the tone in his books is wonderful, but what sticks in my memory here is the scenes with the older boys, making their magazine. greene contributed with a drawing of a piece of shit, which was published (mistakenly) as a cigar. classic!
Oct 10, 2014 Kitty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating insight into the early life of the author and some of his formative experiences.
A sort of pain might've been more accurate. Not sure what to say about those who seem to get gloomier the more success they have. Indeed, this one reminded me a bit of Eric Clapton's can anyone doing so well be in such a constant funk? At any rate, the legendary Russian-roulette section was intriguing.
Dec 03, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have somehow never read a Graham Greene book. While waiting for my library copy of Brighton Rock, I found this book and decided to read it. I really like the style, the use of literary allusions, the sense of humor. Looking forward to reading more of his books.
Jun 05, 2011 David rated it liked it
Greene's memoirs made me want to travel and I can only thank him for opening this wonderful world through his books. His characters are what I can identify with, but the story of the man himself is just as fascinating.
Aug 21, 2011 Russio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The duller half of Greene's life - from birth to first publication via Berkhamstead. Gets more interesting as it goes along but the second half is what would be really interesting.
Denise DeRocher
Long on childhood angst, short on what I really wanted to know about, which is his adult life, his writings, and who he became (vs why he became what he was, which was never explained!).
Oct 02, 2013 Joshuaburkett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
amazing book--- i couldn't really get into his detective stuff, but this autobiography blew me away... a fast read and gives a real insight into this guy.
Apr 23, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
wedding book from my mum. enjoyed references to berkhamsted ( where me and Graham Green grew up) but don't know his books well enough to fully follow it all
3.5 stars...enjoyed the second half, but not so much the start (his early childhood memories and references). Nice writing.
Chris Stanley
I'm not keen on biographies and all I can say about this one is that it was interesting in places!
Nov 30, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, much so I'm about to start reading The Quiet American.
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Graham Greene: spread the Greene 30 20 Apr 19, 2016 03:28PM  
Greene's autobiography full of lies 3 8 Oct 21, 2014 08:09PM  
  • The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939
  • Curriculum Vitae: Autobiography
  • A Postillion Struck by Lightning
  • You've Had Your Time: Second Part of the Confessions
  • Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait
  • The Summing Up
  • Clinging to the Wreckage
  • Because I Was Flesh
  • The Memorial
  • Father and Son
  • Look Back With Love
  • The Woman Who Shot Mussolini
  • How I Grew
  • Blessings in Disguise
  • Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood
  • To War with Whitaker: The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly, 1939-1945
  • A House With Four Rooms
  • Wolf Willow
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
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“The influence of early books is profound. So much of the future lies on the shelves. Early reading has more influence than any religious teaching.” 4 likes
“The thought of retirement set his nerves twitching and straining: he always prayed that death would come first.” 0 likes
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