Elizabeth's Reviews > The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
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Nov 08, 2008

Read in November, 2008

** spoiler alert ** having finished the book now, I shall add to the review below that about mid-way thru I went from feeling quite lukewarm about this book to loving it--to feeling so deeply sympathetic for the middle-aged, wounded and selfish narrator who is so *determined* not to get involved, and how broken his involvement leaves him in heart and body, even though he gets everything he wants at the end: the divorce, the girl, the job, the death of his rival--which he also gets away with, having engineered it himself--and yet, you know, he cares too much about the underhanded way he has achieved all these things to ever be happy with them. And even though you don't feel sorry for the slimedog of a rival (well, *I* don't, thank you very much, but maybe my sympathies were twisted to start with), you still know that the narrator won't be able to live with the guilt.

I wonder what makes me want to de-personalize these characters by not using their names? some kind of distancing technique?

Anyway, it's a great book.

It took me a while to get into... I was unfairly prejudiced against it thinking, OH GOD, another western journalist in love with a third world sweetheart in a country at war. But I like Graham Greene and of course this predates all the other "western journalist in love" books that I've read recently, and I'd never read a book about Vietnam which also made me keep going, and now I'm halfway thru and suddenly it's just pushing ALL my buttons: two men scrapping over the same girl, lying in a pool of freezing water at the end of their strength in a no man's land where they have no business in a war that isn't theirs, one of them with a broken leg and my sympathy as the jealous and jilted narrator, and the other with the moral upper hand AND youth AND the girl... it's fabulous. Greene is such a subtle writer; he doesn't use italics or exclamation points or, god forbid, ADVERBS (ahem), so you sort of have to extract the *intensity* of the situation by whispering everything aloud as you read to give it emphasis... like a script.

Well, I haven't finished it but you do have an idea of the end before you start, as it's told in flashback. Yet I've no idea how it will get there from here.

I'm loving it so much I had to write about it NOW.
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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny The film with Michael Caine of this book is also fabulous.

message 2: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth ooh, i haven't seen the film. must find a copy.

turns out this is supposed to be one of Barack Obama's favorite books, too!

message 3: by Jenny (last edited Nov 18, 2008 06:00AM) (new)

Jenny yes every time I hear of a bombing in any conflict zone, I assume it could be the Americans (I am not talking about the moderate ones but the Dick Cheney's etc!) stirring things up. Maybe Obama will stop all that !

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