Carl Brush's Reviews > Travels With My Aunt

Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene
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May 06, 12


A total departure from all others in the current list of Greenies I’ve been reading. It’s a, strangely believe it, comedy. And damned good. “I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother’s funeral” is the opener. Thus saith Henry Pulling, recently retired bank officer, dahlia cultivator, and all around stuffed shirt prude. Aunt Augusta, on the other hand, is a rip-snorting high liver with a criminal past and (as it turns out) future with a joie de vivre Henry can only dream of.

The main comedy emerges from the straight arrow tendencies of Henry clashing with the free-for-all proclivities of his aunt. We spend a little more time in England on this one (as far as I know Brighton Rock is Greene’s only novel set entirely on the isle), but true to the title, we do get to France, Istanbul, Argentina, and, eventually Paraguay. Why Paraguay? Beats me. Ask Lily Tuck and Anne Enright whose The News From Paraguay and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, respectively, both garnered great reviews from hither and yon, including Writer Working. The travels, of course, comprise more than geographical dislocation, or it wouldn’t be Greene. Likewise the characters—a pot smoking daughter of a CIA operative, a pot-smuggling Sierra Leonean smitten beyond words with the much older (75) Augusta. Among others.

This is not a fluffy Wodehouse, though the hi-jinks have some elements thereof. But there’s real pain and real danger amid the witty repartee. Not just disappointment and inconvenience.

This was a surprise and a delight for moi. My admiration for the rather dour and super-religious author of all the other things I’ve commented on has increased enormously that he could also pull off something like this.
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