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A Sort of Life

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  27 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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This is Graham Greene's first memoir, the second being "Ways of Escape" (Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1980), 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; m ...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
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.
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.
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
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
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"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
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.
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
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
"Memory is like a long broken night. As I write, it is as though I am waking from sleep continually to grasp at an image which I hope may drag in its wake a whole intact dream, but the fragments remain fragments, the complete story always escapes" (33).

"If I were to choose an epigraph for all the novels I have written, it would be from Bishop Blougrams's Apology, 'Our interest is in the dangerous edge of things. The honest thief, the tender murderer, the superstitious atheist, demi-rep that love
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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
Chris Stanley
I'm not keen on biographies and all I can say about this one is that it was interesting in places!
I really enjoyed this book, much so I'm about to start reading The Quiet American.
James Thompson
An entertaining novel essential for those wanting background on Greene's fiction.
I'm just not a big fan of the genre, but good in that.
Marsha marked it as to-read
May 09, 2015
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Greene's autobiography full of lies 3 6 Oct 21, 2014 08:09PM  
  • The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939
  • Curriculum Vitae: Autobiography
  • The Summing Up
  • Clinging to the Wreckage
  • Because I Was Flesh
  • Roughing It in the Bush
  • Wolf Willow
  • The Memorial
  • You've Had Your Time: Second Part of the Confessions
  • The Writings of John Lennon
  • A House With Four Rooms
  • The Woman Who Shot Mussolini
  • The Purple Land
  • A Postillion Struck by Lightning
  • Blessings in Disguise
  • The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
  • Poets in Their Youth
  • Sex and Death to the Age 14
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 about Graham Greene...
The Quiet American The End of the Affair The Power and the Glory The Heart of the Matter Our Man in Havana

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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.” 3 likes
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