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The Ministry of Fear

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,395 ratings  ·  174 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, 272 pages
Published September 20th 1982 by Viking Books (first published 1943)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”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 X smokin' hot
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
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Agnieszka

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 ?
...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
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Susan
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
Sketchbook
Alan Furst, intro, says this is fine reading on trains-planes. Who is this asshole? I piss on him.
Helen
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
Jonfaith
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
Alan Marchant
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Val
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
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
Laura
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.
James
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.
Paul Bartusiak
Asylum photo asylum_zpsb0dae90e.jpg
Surviving war-torn England is hard enough, but the Ministry of Fear?

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what the MoF is. I don't mean the book itself, I mean the Ministry. An organization? A place? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that this is a skillfully written and intriguing story, or as Graham Green used to call it, an "entertainment." You see, Graham Greene wrote two types of novels in his day: eloquent, serious ones (think The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, The Honorar
...more
Jeanette
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
Jim
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
Janet
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
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
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
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 holiday
...more
Roisin
Graham Greene was a master of the English language and could always write an engaging tale. 'The Ministry of Fear', written in Sierra Leone while working for MI6, is a thought provoking, sometimes dark, spy story set in the early part of World War 2 that won't let you down.

The main character Arthur Rowe, convicted of killing his wife, exists within a London battered by the war and comes across a German spy group. With an odd-seeming but memorable opener at a fair involving a cake, this wonderful
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Jake
Some reviewers claims that there is no difference between Graham Greene's literary works and his entertainments, but they're wrong. His literary fictions are towering achievements that teach you something new about human nature and the way the world works- some, like The Power and the Glory, Brighton Rock, The End of the Affair, and The Quiet American, are among the best books ever written in English.

His entertainments, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat haphazardly thrown together thriller
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Ali
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 –
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Patricia
The Ministry of Fear was published in 1943. Between the fantastic background of dropping bombs, some of the odd-sounding terminology of London in the '40's, and the starkness of the novel, I was constantly trying to make sense of the main character, Arthur Rowe's situation in the novel. It is certainly a "noir" novel in which the unsuspecting character stumbles upon a dangerous secret when he wins a cake at a fete or fair. His fate worsens when he is framed for murder by a small undercover group ...more
David
At times Greene writes coolly, from such a great distance that his compassion feels cold and academic. This novel deals with a man so lost that he cannot forgive himself for a transgression that everyone has already forgiven him. Greene's catholic beliefs were part of what kept him distant, but they did not simplify life for him, and as this novel unfolds, the story becomes more tangled as does the protagonist's relationship to the past. This novel is a great counterpoint to some of the heated n ...more
Al
A neat little period piece. Published in 1943, this is a story of an Everyman who wanders into the middle of a German espionage operation in wartime London. At first clueless, he begins to discern the outlines of the plot as his world (literally) implodes. Mr. Greene is convincing in presenting the bewilderment and terror of a man caught in something deadly, but not understanding it at all -- including the impossibility of knowing who are friends and who enemies. How he manages to survive it al ...more
Philip
'A phrase of Johns' came back to mind about a Ministry of Fear. He felt now that he had joined its permanent staff. But it wasn't the small Ministry to which Johns had referred, with limited aims like winning a war or changing a constitution. It was a Ministry as large as life to which all who loved belonged. if one loved on feared. That was something Digby had forgotten, full of hope among the flowers and Tatlers.'
Graeme Shimmin
I felt this fell a little between two stools. It seems unsure whether it wants to be a literary novel about the nature of identity and how guilt and the past make happiness in the present impossible, or a fun spy romp. As such, it's very uneven.

Ministry of Fear starts in John Buchan territory, with the hero blundering into an enemy spy plot and being forced on the run, pursued by the conspirators and the police, and so far so good, with his character deepening as we discover the hero is depresse
...more
Sarah
I'd saved this book from the dumpster when I worked at Oxfam all those years ago (I don't think they landfill books any more). When we moved recently I fished it out of one of the boxes of books and was impressed at its condition and thought that now is the time to read it.

I read a few Graham Greene books whilst I was at University, after studying 'The Quiet American' for a stylistics class. This book is probably my favourite.

It reminded me of a couple of books I've read recently, mainly 'Ordi
...more
☯Bettie☯
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Bright Young Things: May 2014- The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene 80 24 Jun 02, 2014 11:58PM  
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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...
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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“But it is impossible to go through life without trust; that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.” 262 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.” 217 likes
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