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Our Man in Havana

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  25,915 ratings  ·  1,786 reviews
Graham Greene's classic Cuban spy story, now with a new package and a new introduction

First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates to this day. Conceived as one of Graham Greene's 'entertainments,' it tells of MI6's man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman tu
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Paperback, Reprint (1st edition in Penguin: 1962), 220 pages
Published September 3rd 1991 by Penguin/Twentieth Century Classics (first published 1958)
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David Pertaub Try to see the film if you can. It is a classic. Wormold is played by a young Alec Guinness - yes, Obi Wan Kenobi from the first Star Wars. Noel Cowar…moreTry to see the film if you can. It is a classic. Wormold is played by a young Alec Guinness - yes, Obi Wan Kenobi from the first Star Wars. Noel Coward also makes an appearance. From what I understand, Greene was involved in the adaptation too.(less)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Robin
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The 1967 Nobel Prize committee for literature didn't know what they were doing. They snubbed their nose at Graham Greene because apparently he wrote too many "entertainments".

Our Man in Havana is one such entertainment, which means it won't have you sobbing into the creases of your book like you might do in The End of the Affair, or swooning over incredibly insightful sentences describing human failings and observations. The tone of this book is not serious, it's comedic. Our "hero" is a man na
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Candi
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Patriotic Englishman. Been here for years. Respected member of the European Traders’ Association. We must have our man in Havana, you know. Submarines need fuel. Dictators drift together. Big ones draw in the little ones."

If there was an award for most unlikely to succeed as a spy, Englishman James Wormold would definitely be in the running! You see, he is a vacuum salesman, whose latest machine, the ‘Atomic Pile Cleaner’, is not selling well due to its unfortunate name. After all, this novel t
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Bionic Jean
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bionic 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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Bill Kerwin

This is one of Graham Greene’s thrillers which he labeled as “entertainments” as a warning to his audience not to take these books seriously. Our Man in Havana definitely needs such a warning. There is no reason to take the book seriously at all.

The plot is promising. Havana vacuum cleaner Wormold, owner of an Havana vacuum cleaner shop, hard-pressed to satisfy the expensive tastes (horses, country club) of his beautiful, manipulative (and motherless) teenage daughter, decides—when recruited by
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David Schaafsma
Comedy Thriller Daquiri, With a Dash of Shakespeare?

“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. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?”—Beatrice, to Wormold

Okay, this may not be one of the very best of Graham Greene novels, but in re-reading it after all these years I appreciated so much what a great writer can do with a lesser/lighter story. Greene
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Supratim
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had come across two lists mentioning the top 100 mystery/crime novels some time back. Both the lists - one by Britain-based Crime Writers' Association and the other by Mystery Writers of America, contained multiple books by Graham Greene. You can find both the lists here Link. The CWA list was published in 1990 and the MWA list in 1995. Pretty long time back but the books included are very fine specimens of crime writing.

I had read Greene's The Human Factor long time back and for some reason t
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Richard Derus
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed, returned
Graceless, gormless Wormold, a British sales agent for an American vacuum cleaner company in barely pre-Revolution Havana, has a problem. His adolescent daughter Milly, a manipulative and materialistic minx, spends well beyond his paltry earnings in her quest to ensnare the Red Vulture. That's a person, not a bird, one Captain Segura, who is the police torturer and possessor of a cigarette case covered in human skin. (An assertion Milly makes but Segura denies.) Wormold is fighting a losing batt ...more
Sue
Sep 04, 2011 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
Jan-Maat
When I was a youngster I read a lot 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 relevant in it's message of being mindful of the potential sources of intelligence information.

Greene seems to have suffered a fall in Grace as according to the county library catalogue he
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James
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of Graham Greene’s novels I’ve read that is classed as one of his “entertainments” – so I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. The style, tone and nature of ‘Our Man in Havana’ clearly has a very different feel to his more serious novels (‘Heart of the Matter’, ‘End of the Affair’ et al) and as such is quite distinct from that oeuvre.

‘Our Man in Havana’ is very well written as you would expect from Graham Greene and is certainly very entertaining, very funny throughout. The plot
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Werner
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Greene fans; fans of cynical satire
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my groups
Shelves: espionage
Greene divided his own fiction between the novels and stories he considered more serious, such as The Heart of the Matter, and those he viewed as lighter "entertainments." This relatively short (247 pages --and not all of them with text) novel is one of the latter; and like many of the "entertainments" it draws on the author's World War Ii experiences as a spy for Britain's M-16 intelligence agency. (And it's obvious here that these weren't experiences he looked back on fondly.) Set in pre-Castr ...more
booklady
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jim Wormold, divorcé, lives in Havana with his pretty teenage daughter, Milly. He has one friend, Dr. Hasselbacher and struggles to make ends meet as a none-too-successful vacuum cleaner salesman. Then an unexpected person walks into his life—with what you might call an ‘opportunity too good to refuse’. He can become the undercover British Agent in Havana, watch for/report on suspicious activity, recruit his own agents, set up an expense account, and start earning that second income he so desper ...more
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
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Russ Melrose
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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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Teresa
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written, perfectly plotted, political, prescient "entertainment" (as Greene called some of his works). 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.

In the otherwise-wonderful The Human Factor I had dislik
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Cbj
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
***SPOILERS ALERT***

Our Man in Havana is a satirical spy novel set in Havana during the cold war. British influence over the rest of the world is on the wane. An alcoholic British expatriate Jim Wormold - who owns a shop that sells vacuum cleaners is hired by a British intelligence agency as their man (spy) in Havana.

Wormold is a lot like Henry Scobie in Greene's The Heart of the Matter. He is a middle aged man who does not know what he is to do with the rest of his life. How will he go on? How
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Laura
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: men
I read this several years ago - and enjoyed it immensely, but what struck this time round was how much I missed on the first reading. Laugh-out-loud reading pleasure this time. Greene calls the novel An Entertainment - which I think, partly was his way of avoiding criticism of his "criticisms" of the British secret service.

Anyway the story is straightforward - Jim Wormold is a vacuum cleaner sales rep based in Havanna, Cuba - set towards the end of Batista's regime - so before 1959.

Wormold is r
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David
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-lit
Graham Greene always amazed me as he wrote about topical subjects before they became topical.

It's a funny thing. I read this book several decades ago along with all the other Graham Greene books (the Paul Hogarth illustrated covers series by Penguin). Then last week a local theatre company put on this play so I couldn't resist. To be honest I vaguely remembered this story. At times I thought it seemed a little dated (now it's a period piece) but the mixture of black humour and Greene's plot line
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Ray
Feb 26, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
So good that I bought it twice. One month apart. Goodreads is supposed to stop this happening. Finally losing my marbles.
Elaine
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I first read this book 30 years ago and was charmed by Greene's sardonic sendup of the spy genre (I didn't fully appreciate at the time that OMIH pre-dated most of what I thought of as the spy genre). Re-reading it again this year after a visit to Cuba, I loved (along with the wit, which sparkles as brightly as ever) the deft way Greene conveys the atmosphere of Havana (more the same than you might think, after 60 years) in very few words. In particular, understanding the history better this tim ...more
Zoeb
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Christine
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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Alex
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics
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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Irene
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud when reading a book. This story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman recruited to be a spy in Cuba at the height of the Cold War was clever, smart, funny and totally entertaining. I don’t think I will ever hear a report from any intelligence agency the same way again.
Tripp
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Geevee
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An enjoyable story about Mr Wormald the vacuum salesman and his stumbles and development into a spy. For me this had echoes of Waugh's Scoop as the plot developed and Wormald enters the world of espionage and then gets noticed: by London and people in Cuba.

What is interesting away from the story's subject matter and absurdity of Wormald and what he reports is that three years later after this story was published the Bay of Pigs enters fact followed a year later by the Cuban Missile crisis. Bein
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Emma
Apr 24, 2017 rated it liked it
This didn't really appeal to me much. It was meant to be comedic in tone and I suppose I found it slightly so. It is Graham Greene taking a shot at the world of British Intelligence in pre-Castro Cuba. Most reviewers seemed to like this so I think the problem is mine rather than the book's!
John Farebrother
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, hilarious read of espionage and pompous civil servants who are so inept they're not fit to run a chip shop. Perhaps not so funny if you've worked for the civil service and you realise that the story is entirely feasible. Uncannily reminiscent of The Tailor of Panama. A spymaster and an expat on the ground in Cuba manage to concoct between them, but entirely without each other's knowledge, a fantasy international plot, which allows the "source" to receive generous ex-gratis payments, ...more
Patrick Sherriff
While it is a product of its time -- Greene was writing when Britain still had remnants of empire left -- the author's humanity and humour shine through today. While partly a satire on the British establishment of the 1950s a la Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, the tale manages to stay one step above farce and keeps us reading with believable characters in a situation that becomes ever more unbelievable. There are also tasty meta aspects -- our hero builds ever more fantastic backstories for his list ...more
Calzean
I had read this book many years ago and remember it as a farcical lampoon. But I had not remembered it was such a sophisticated piece of writing. Catholicism, anti-American, criticism of England's treatment of it's Empire, the arrogance of the English class system, and a clarity as to what drove the cold war along were all covered. Greene also included lots of whisky, drinking and bars.
The characters were great. The mundane, underachieving vacuum seller Wormold, his half-nun/half-vixen daughter,
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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
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