The other night at dinner I told a friend I was reading a book that I thought she would like. When I told her it was Graham Greene's Travels with my AThe other night at dinner I told a friend I was reading a book that I thought she would like. When I told her it was Graham Greene's Travels with my Aunt she was ebullient, while our other friend said, "I will never read another book by THAT man." The three of us had all read Journeys without Maps together. My fellow G. G. fan declared she must, just must read The Quiet American. I backed her up with acclaim for The Heart of the Matter, which I said was my favorite. When I started thinking though, I remembered The Third Man, and then Then End of the Affair. All are such very different books. A reader who writes Green off after one book is writing off several different writers. Unlike his contemporary, the other Green, Henry who was wildly original in his mode, but very consistent, Graham Greene has several modes. He acknowledged this when he said he wrote two kinds of books, "entertainments" and more serious literature. Travels falls, not squarely, but more so than not, in I the entertainment bracket. One characteristic which is obviously missing is guilt. Henry Pulling may have regrets, but they aren't for his misspent youth. Quite the otherwise.
Attending his mother's funeral Pulling meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time. Augusta pulls Pulling into her rather dubious life. While he does not go kicking and screaming, there is a fair amount of hemming and hawing and worry about his dahlias. Since retiring as a bank manager, he has made weekly visits to his mother, dahlias and delivery dinners from Chicken the anchors of his world. Now he is in Istanbul, with his aunt, dealing with what? Smuggling? Nazi war criminals, Arab traders, Colonel Hakim, the head of the police. Returning to his mundane life turns out to not be the relief he expected.
No one in Travels is a certain quantity, Henry Pulling included. Morals, mores, these are uncertain too. Is the misspent youth perhaps the one that was not misspent, but one of blindly following a path of conformity? This is the main theme of the book though the value of religion, the questionable role of the US and Britain in The Near East and South America, the nature of love and family are also explored. When I first heard of Travels, that would have been in the '70s, I imagined the aunt was likely to be a harmless eccentric, rather like the aunt in Towers of Trebizond. So wrong! With her collections of Venetian glass and pot smoking West African lover she seems so at first, but no. She isn't a lovable or admirable character, but still engaging and likable.
While the characterization of Augusta and Henry are strong, other characters a bit too much of "characters." Also, some of the plot elements rely heavily on coincidence. This is not something that bothers me over much, though there are times that it caused me to grimace. Travels does not have the weight of Heart of the Matter, however, it is not a throw away entertainment either. Like much of Greene's books, it is ultimately, despite Augusta's corrupt optimism, vaguely sad. It's just not clear why....more
To get an idea of this send up of the last couple decades of expat vogue, think, Tom Sharpe does Peter Mayle, and you will hit something of the rightTo get an idea of this send up of the last couple decades of expat vogue, think, Tom Sharpe does Peter Mayle, and you will hit something of the right amalgam; however, I was singularly unimpressed with what others have dubbed a masterpiece. I suppose I managed a upturn of the corner of a smile here and there. Perhaps my funny bone is under the weather. Perhaps this just isn't the book for me....more
Alice is (exactly) six months older then when she fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. This perhaps is the reason for what I found to be the greAlice is (exactly) six months older then when she fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. This perhaps is the reason for what I found to be the greatest difference in Alice's adventures in Wonderland and those she had in the Looking-Glass world. Wonderland borders on the nightmarish. Alice is often quite frightened and totally flummoxed by her situations. So distraught is she at one point she ends up swimming in a pool of her own tears. Of course, those tears had been shed when she was much bigger, and, woe, she has shrunk again. In Looking Glass, Alice sometimes becomes irritated with the seeming lack of rationality possessed by the citizens of this backwards world, but rarely to the point of tears or anger. Through her greater maturity at times she is able to remember she is in a mirror land, and her knowledge of the game of chess allows some glimmer of understanding as well. Still some of the word play is a source of perplexity, especially in the case of the words "jam" (iam),the Latin word for a now meaning at that previous time, not meaning at this time, and the rowing terms "feather" and "crab." Besides in Looking-Glass world Alice as a more definite and positive goal - becoming Queen. The "adults" while sometimes vexing or demanding are never as threatening as those of Wonderland. No one is threatening "off with her head." Poor little hedgehogs are not being knocked about by poor flamingos at the Queen's Croquet game. In fact of the inhabitants such as the White Queen and White Knight are endearing in their eccentricity drawing from Alice a bemused sympathy and affection. Yes, Alice faces frustration but as a now older child she takes it in stride. Frequently she thinks about how it would be best not to get into an argument. She has become more disciplined, diplomatic and acquiescent since Wonderland.
There are the obvious differences, one story features characters which are cards, the other chess pieces which explains the oddness of their movements, or in the case of the sleeping king, non-movement. Through the Looking Glass begins the night before Guy Fawkes with Alice indoors watching snow fall on the fields of Oxford. The summer garden where Alice followed the rabbit is covered with snow. Not surprisingly in her new dream she goes into a lush, garden world.
While there are more songs and poems, though Alice rather wishes there weren't, there is less political satire. There have been attempts to interpret the Walrus and the Carpenter as combination portrayal as Buddha/Ganesha and the Carpenter as Christ, the interpretation falls apart when one finds it was John Tenniel who chose the Carpenter from three choices offered by author.
Through the Looking Glass is an amusing book though for me, it lacked Wonderland's psychological and satirical punch. I also miss the fiery, contentious Alice of Wonderland. Alice has grown up quite nicely-perhaps too nicely to be as much fun. However, it is easy to get caught up in Looking-Glass's whimsy. One can't help loving the White Knight who for all of his inventiveness never manages to stay on his horse. What's to be done; that is just the nature of a knight in chess, always confined to their hurky-gurky movement. Never a straight path for them. So it seems with most of us.
My cat, Lucia, would like to point out that Kitty is an offensive name for a cat. She says one should no more name a cat Kitty, than name a baby Baby. Though pleasant enough has a term of endearment, it is no name at all for a cat. She would happily lend her own name in any future revisions of the book. She also says the name Snowdrop is beneath comment....more
Considering that the author lives down the street and is a genuinely nice person, and the story is set in a thinly veiled version of the town in whichConsidering that the author lives down the street and is a genuinely nice person, and the story is set in a thinly veiled version of the town in which I have lived since the late '80s, I wish I liked this book better. I found it contrived and silly. Sorry, Ann. ...more
Effervescent fun. Here in NC we have summer storms and rain, so it was nice to embark on a caper in with a book set in the sunny south of Fra nce withEffervescent fun. Here in NC we have summer storms and rain, so it was nice to embark on a caper in with a book set in the sunny south of Fra nce with Luciano Bennett. Bennett, an Englishman with a taste for the good life and a dwindling bank account, finds what seems to be the dream job that will more than tide him over until his ship comes in (his yacht for hire has gone missing with his business partner at the helm). However before he can say truffles and foie gras, he is embroiled in the escapade of a lifetime, one with all the amenities- mobster, both Italian & Corsican, a murderous Karate expert, a variety of policeman, a collection of questionable monks, a Yorkie on an 18th century plate (you'll just have to read it) and a very pretty girl.
As usual, Mayle's descriptions of people, landscapes, clothing, furnishings, food, wine and, of course, pretty girls is perfect. The humor is crisp, the mood buoyant, despite dicey moments. Some might find Bennett's ogling of the ladies, and the ensuing descriptions a tad sexist or even louche; however, Mayle balances this out by ensuring that Bennett gets his comeuppance and saddles him with girls who are more mind and mettle than make-up.
Can't say to much more than that without giving too much away. ...more