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Our Man in Havana

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  17,081 Ratings  ·  1,073 Reviews
In pre-Castro Cuba, James Wormold's wife has left him for another man, leaving him alone with his teenage daughter Milly. Wormold's career as a vacuum cleaner salesman doesn't net enough to pay for Milly's champagne tastes, so when an acquaintance offers him work with the British secret service, he readily accepts. Unfortunately, Wormold has no information to relay to the ...more
Audio CD, 1 page
Published April 14th 2009 by CSA Word (first published 1958)
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Jean
Oct 02, 2016 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jean by: Leslie
Graham Greene is one of the most highly regarded British authors of the 20th century. The American novelist John Irving has paid tribute to him, calling him,

"the most accomplished living novelist in the English language."

Very popular as a thriller-writer, writing "entertainments", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won the Nobel prize for Literature. In these he examined contemporary moral a
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Hadrian
Who ever knew that Graham Greene could be so funny? This is fine entertainment, although as always influenced by Greene's view on morality and fate. Not that that's bad, because Greene does it so well.

This idea about inventing a spy network and going along with the deception reminds me of the story of Agent Garbo during WWII.
Sue
Nov 25, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: CR reading list
This is a fun read, the story of an accidental spy. Mr Wormold (love that name) sells vacuum cleaners in Havana, not very successfully, until one day he is recruited by a British agent to work for his country while living in that no longer romantic foreign outpost. To be a secret agent! Well--the story takes off from there with a cast of slightly crazy characters: Wormold's religiously manipulative daughter Milly, Captain Segura the head of the local police who has mastered torture, locals of va ...more
Russ Melrose
Aug 01, 2015 Russ Melrose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this Graham Greene novel. What a treat! It's a cold war spy novel taking place in the late '50s in Havana (pre-Castro). The protagonist, Wormold, is a peddler of vacuum cleaners who is asked to spy for MI6. Of course, Wormold is about the worst candidate you could possibly find to be a spy. But he takes the job anyway, mainly so he can dote financially on his teenage daughter, Milly.

Our Man in Havana is a humorous satire on the the cold war spy era. Greene especially takes
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Grace Tjan
spoilers!


Uncorrected Transcript of Oral Evidence

Taken before the Intelligence and Security Committee Tuesday 15 July 1958

Members present:

Mr. Paul Anderson, in the Chair
Mr. Jonathan Blakeley
Mr. Richard Cunningham QC



Witnesses: MR. JAMES WORMOLD, O.B.E., former SIS operative in Havana, Cuba, 1955-1957; and MRS. BEATRICE WORMOLD (NEE SEVERN), formerly a secretary at the SIS headquarters.

Q1 Chairman: Mr. and Mrs. Wormold, may I welcome you to this hearing, which purpose is to examine the veracity of
...more
Tripp
Aug 03, 2008 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana is a delightful farce that manages to be serious and laugh out loud funny at the same time. It follows the unfortunate Wormold, a British vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana whose shortage of funds finds him willing to accept an offer to join the British Intelligence Service. As a generally inept and careless person, he can do any actual spying, so he ends up sending fake reports back to London so that he can use his expense fund to pay for his daughter's many exp ...more
Alex
Mar 28, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
Even though this is one of Graham Greene's "entertainments", it is his own real employment with MI6 during WW2 that adds layers to this otherwise light hearted satire on the British Secret Service.

Here Greene has written a story of a British citizen (Wormold) living in Havana in the early 1950s during the Batista regime. He is a dour middle aged vacuum cleaner salesman with a bombshell 16 year old daughter, Milly, whose burgeoning sexuality is at odds with her Catholic morality: something she h
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Jeremy
’It seems worthwhile being blind in this sun.’


Our Man and Captain Segura—the Red Vulture, the Cuban police torturer with a cigarette lighter covered in human skin—get together and play checkers regularly; and, regularly enough, ‘huffing’ came into play. I’m not a checkers or draughts player; I had to look it up.

In almost all the variations of the game of checkers, a player is required to make a jump or a capture if such a move is available. There are certain variations of the game however where
...more
Judy
Mar 26, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Judy by: Anne
I LOVE this book! It reminds me of a Wodehouse with smarter characters, but with similar dry British humor and hilarious anecdotes.

The sauciness of teenage saint Millie, her too-old-for-a-suitor torturing policeman who knows everything that goes on in Havana (and probably Cuba), her father, Wormold, who is "our man in Havana", not to mention his secretary and agents, provided me with belly laughs, snickers and guffaws aplenty. Wormold ekes by as a vacuum cleaner dealer until approached by a Sec
...more
Panagiotis
Feb 12, 2015 Panagiotis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ο Γκράχαμ Γκριν, λέει, κατηγοριοποιούσε τις ιστορίες του σε καθαρά λογοτεχνιάζουσες και σε ψυχαγωγικές.

Δεν ξέρω για αυτόν τον διαχωρισμό, ξέρω όμως το εξής: βρίθει λογοτεχνικότητας, καυστικότητας, απολαυστικών διαλόγων. Έχει χιούμορ ίσως παραπάνω από άλλες του ιστορίες, μα αυτό αποτελεί ένα κοινό γνώρισμά της γραφής του. Ίσως έχει και παραπάνω δράση, αν και δεν είναι πτυχή άγνωστη στα βιβλία του - απεναντίας. Ίσως το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο κάποιος να το χαρακτήριζε φάρσα. Πάντως είναι ένα εξαιρετι
...more
Jan-Maat
When I was a youngster I read alot of Graham Greene. This one feels to me to be less typical, Catholicism isn't such a feature and guilt isn't quite such an overwhelming presence as in some of his other novels. By contrast this is fairly light.

It's an enjoyable read and there's a value that still seems fairly relevent in it's message of being mindful of the potential sources of intelligence information.
Steve
Not a bad book by any means, but the 150-page set-up seemed to be really excessive when compared to the 50-page climax. Overall, it was a clever, humorous take on the ultra-serious world of international espionage. I don't say this very often (ever?), but I think this book would have worked better as a short story.
umberto
Sep 03, 2016 umberto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: secret-service
A 3.5 star book.

For this title I have once kept a paperback hoping to read enjoyably but, for some reasons, I simply could not have a go after some ten pages thinking it was not my type, I mean the genre involving espionage or secret service (I don't think 'spy fiction' suggests anything positive, rather it reveals inevitable betrayal, high treason and digital sabotage in the 21st century). However, I have recently resolved to pick up his "The Confidential Agent" and happily made it as the secon
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Julie
This farce holds the same canny and clever delight as the Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove and The Comedy of Errors, with dialogue and pacing to which David Mamet is clearly indebted. I could almost see the smoke from Graham Greene's typewriter keys swirling in the air as he tore through sheets of erasable bond, churning out this crazy, wonderful and utterly a propos satire of spies.

It's the mid 1950's when we meet our man, Jim Wormold, a milquetoast British expatriate who moved to Havana prior to
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Teresa
Jan 17, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written, perfectly plotted, political, prescient "entertainment" that, while reading, I didn't feel at all the implausibility of the recruitment by the British Secret Service of a vacuum-cleaner salesman living in Cuba or that of the courting of his Catholic teenage daughter by a Cuban policeman/enforcer. The humor in the dialogue and elsewhere is dry and funny in a-wink-and-a-nod kind of way.

I had disliked the similes in the otherwise-wonderful The Human Factor, which I'd found awkward,
...more
Jason
Not too bad, a bit slapsticky at times and Wormolds antics had me chuckling at times. My main issue with the book is how vague the author was with Wormold and Beatrice's relationship, felt a bit lazy he just sorts of throws them together and you are expected to accept them.

First Graham Greene book for me and I enjoyed it, looking forward to reading more of his stuff.
Gill
Nov 12, 2014 Gill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was excellent until the final chapter and epilogue. I felt that Greene wasn't sure about how to finish off the story.
Alice
Feb 10, 2016 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I borrowed Our Man in Havana as an eaudiobook from the library after seeing someone on Mastermind answer questions on Graham Greene. I thought the idea of a vacuum cleaner sales person accidentally becoming a spy sounded hilarious and I wasn't wrong.

Jim Wormold bumbles through Havana while his beautiful, but apparently deeply religious, daughter Millie glides on the air produced by many wolf whistles. Beautiful and adventurous she is the opposite of her father who tries desperately to please her
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Daniel
Mar 03, 2008 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, 2008
Given the supposed military intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, it's tempting to look to books such as "Our Man in Havana," Graham Greene's comic spy novel about the Cold War, for parallels to our current situation. (In the book, drawings of pieces of a household vacuum cleaner are passed off as schematics for sophisticated weaponry.) Rather than there being any direct correlation, however, it brings more to mind that quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain about how history may not repea ...more
Whitaker
Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman based in Havana. He gets approached to be a British spy. His daughter wants a horse and well, the vacuum cleaner business isn't going so well. The espionage gig pays better, so Wormold says yes. His daughter gets her horse. Hijinks ensue.

"An Entertainment" describes the novel very well. It had me laughing out loud with glee. A rollicking well-paced satire on espionage and patriotism with a surprisingly sobering and heartfelt ending.
Jamie
Jun 07, 2013 Jamie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This would have earned higher marks from me— four, even five stars— if Greene had liked his story half as much as I did. It’s all there— fake spies, that line between fiction and reality, absurdity and inane bureaucracy and humanity— but he doesn’t write like there’s much joy in it for him. I could be wrong. It’s just the feeling I got from it, after all, anyway. The thought that, had he attacked this with relish instead of obligation, man, what a story.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
In a lot of ways this is a brilliant book--or at least brilliantly written, but this first book I've read by Graham Greene also left me feeling it would be my last--thus the less than five star rating since I can't honestly say this hit things out of the park for me. The book was published in 1958 and is set in Cuba in the last days pre-Castro--although no one knew that when it was published. Jim Wormold, mild-mannered vacuum-cleaner salesman, is recruited into the British Secret Service to be t ...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
3.25 stars.

This was...kind of a surprising book. The gist of the story is that this English guy is a vacuum cleaner salesman living in Havana. He has a 17 year old daughter who wants a horse for her birthday and to join the country club and to basically be rich. He can't afford all the stuff she wants. But then he's approached by someone wanting to recruit him as a spy for the British government. When he realises how much extra cash he can make from this, he agrees and then promptly makes up a
...more
Robert
Sep 07, 2008 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greene described this book as an "entertainment." In the early comedic parts I thought that Greene, at least in this instance, had indeed produced a lightweight entertaining novel and was not the heavyweight literature writer I had been lead to believe he was. I was thinking that I would not greatly inclined to read anything else by a writer many feel was robbed of the Nobel Prize.

When the book suddenly and dramatically veers towards the Tragic at about the half-way point my feelings also began
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David
Sep 09, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
"Drawing a cheque is not nearly so simple an operation in an American bank as in an English one. American bankers believe in the personal touch; the teller conveys a sense that he happens to be there accidentally and he is overjoyed at the lucky chance of the encounter. 'Well,' he seems to express in the sunny warmth of his smile, 'who would have believed that I'd meet you here, you of all people, in a bank of all places?'"

"Sometimes I fear going home to Boots and Woolworths"

"The Germans formed
...more
Leslie
Aug 11, 2013 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Guardian list
Such a great spoof of the spy thrillers of the Cold War era! And Greene should know how to do it, having written some of the best of these :)

However, this is one of the rare cases where the book and the movie version are equally wonderful. If you haven't already, watch this film - one of Alec Guinness's best in my opinion! So it is no criticism of Jeremy Northam's narration when I say that even listening to the audiobook, I heard Alec Guinness in my head for Wormold.
A. Dawes
Aug 14, 2016 A. Dawes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Greene's 'entertainments', which was Greene's own term for when he moved into more plot driven genre fiction. This is a clever, satirical novel, which will have you smile at times and be full of suspense at others. Greene delivers here. Our Man in Havana, however, is far more than simply an 'entertainment'.
Amit Tiwary
Aug 16, 2015 Amit Tiwary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books
A highly entertaining spy story, a satire on MI6 and management of intelligence :-). Very well structured and keeps you hooked. What is bit dragging is the climax!

Otherwise a perfect good and quick read.
Beth
Mar 04, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ylto-2016
Didn't expect a Graham Greene to be so catch-22ish! Very different from the other things I have read by him. More playful.
☯Emily
Nov 22, 2012 ☯Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read only one other Graham Greene novel which covered a serious topic seriously. So I was surprised to find this book to be a comedic look at spying and spy organizations. However, after reading it, I'm curious to know if these types of shenanigans actually occur. Mr. Wormold, a seller of vacuum cleaners in Havana, Cuba in the 1950's, is recruited to be a spy for the British government. He has no training and has to learn what is expected by the London officials by trial or error or perha ...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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“I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations...I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?” 266 likes
“They can print statistics and count the populations in hundreds of thousands, but to each man a city consists of no more than a few streets, a few houses, a few people. Remove those few and a city exists no longer except as a pain in the memory, like a pain of an amputated leg no longer there.” 22 likes
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