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Our Man in Havana

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  28,546 ratings  ·  2,016 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)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
N N It's a passage obviously rich in meanings, but two slang connotations for 'dog' are 'something less than satisfactory' and 'a boring or unattractive w…moreIt's a passage obviously rich in meanings, but two slang connotations for 'dog' are 'something less than satisfactory' and 'a boring or unattractive woman'. The dog is *small* as a humorous suggestion why 'the seller' might not believe in it himself (i.e., a dog that does not behave like a 'real' dog).(less)
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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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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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Candi
"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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Dave Schaafsma
Comedy Thriller Daiquiri, 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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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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Hanneke
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Graham Greene classified ‘Our Man in Havana’ as one of his ‘entertainments’ and so it is. I would almost call it a slap-stick at times, although I don’t know if that was Graham Greene’s intention. Well, it was clear that he was enjoying himself dishing out some very apt observations on the silliness of spy games of MI6 and its department heads, who perceived all sort of complots where a simple objective observation would have made all the difference. Quite an enjoyable read!
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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Lorna
Our Man in Havana was a delightful and satirical novel about the Cold War as only Graham Greene could do. James Wormold, an Englishman in Havana is recruited into espionage as a spy for MI6. Wormold, is a struggling vacuum cleaner salesman for Phastkleaners in Havana, Cuba, and left by his wife years ago. But he loves his delightful sixteen year-old daughter Millie who is torn between the rigors and rituals of her Catholic faith and spending frivolously, the latest expenditure a horse necessitat ...more
Baba
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful post World War II black comedy from Greene. 'Our Man in Havana' is vacuum cleaner salesman Jim Wormold, who has a 16 year old daughter at a convent school, that always seems to find ways to spend his money, when she's not being driven around town by the Chief of Police, Segura.

Wormold is approached by British Secret Service agent, Henry Hawthorne to become a spy; Wormold says no, but then Hawthorne mentions he will be paid and get all expenses covered, and that's when this wonderful
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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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Sara
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
You are interested in a person, not in life,
and people die or leave us....But if you're
interested in life, it never lets you down.


Graham Greene’s almost farcical take on international spying, Our Man in Havana is mostly a humorous look at a vacuum cleaner salesman, who is pressed into service by M16. Jim Wormold is out of his depth from the beginning, and not being a real spy, he does what makes the most sense to him, he manufactures information and pockets money. What ensues is nearly pure humo
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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
Janelle
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, library
I really enjoyed this, it was funny, beautifully written, I was drawn into the story from the start and it’s a gentle satire which I thought made it’s points well.
Wormold, the central character is an English vacuum cleaner seller with a teenage daughter with expensive tastes living in Cuba. He’s almost unwittingly recruited by Hawthorne to be a spy and the story unfolds around him with lots of unseen consequences. I loved the ending, it seemed so appropriate!
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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Usha
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it

"Childhood was the germ of all mistrust. You were cruelly joked upon and then you cruelly joked. You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it."

Our Man in Havana is a satirical espionage parody set in Cuba. The novel was published just few months prior to Fidel Castro toppling the Batista’s regime. James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited by MI6 to spy and to set up spy network without any clear instructions on as to what he is to spy on. There begins the fabrication of con
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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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Ray
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  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.

A twee little book. Poverty stricken vacuum cleaner salesman in pre Castro Cuba is recruited by the British secret service. He is paid by results and takes to making stuff up to earn more money.

Then things take a queer turn as his made up reports start having real life consequences. People are being bumped off and attempts are made on VCSs life.

And who is the sinister police
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Laura Anne
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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Anne (On semi-hiatus)
This is a laugh out loud funny novel about a vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba who unwittingly becomes a bungling spy in Havana. Hilarity ensues. This book was written just a few years before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Is Greene prescient? I don't know but he certainly is humorous and seems to know Cuba and espionage.

There is a wonderful movie adaptation starring Alec Guinness. Not to be missed.
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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
Matthew
133rd book of 2020.
‘I don’t give a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organisations… 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?’

This is my 10th Greene novel. It is one of his “entertainments” which he named himself, and they are precisely that – entertainments. This is one of said books. A vacuum clea
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Zoeb
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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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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