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Group Reads Archive > March 2016- The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Welcome to March's group read of The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.

Enjoy!


message 2: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I can't find my copy. It must still be buried in a box in the garage. Although there aren't that many left in boxes.


message 3: by Greg (new)

Greg | 330 comments I have a copy, it was No. 5 on my TRL. I'll get started on it soon. The next Greene I'd intended reading was Stamboul Train, but it looks like The Power and the Glory jumps the queue.
Should be a good group read.


message 4: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I have to get a copy from the library. This will be my first Greene.


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg | 330 comments Here's an article on Graham Greene that should be off interest to start the discussion.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015...


message 6: by Nigeyb (last edited Mar 02, 2016 03:42AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Greg. I really enjoyed The End of the Affair - so good to read the musings of Robert McCrum in that Guardian article you posted.

I was also interested to note, in Robert McCrum's introductory paragraph, that this book - The Power and the Glory - is described as religious...

There are many Greenes, and almost all of them – the thriller writer (The Third Man), the entertainer (Our Man in Havana), the contemporary political novelist (The Quiet American), the polemicist (The Comedians) and the serious religious writer (The Power and the Glory) – deserve consideration in this series (of the 100 best novels).

I am not especially drawn to this particular book, though have enjoyed all the books by Graham Greene that I have read so far, so I am going to follow this discussion with interest in the hope it will inspire me to track down a copy, and join in.

Here's to another wonderful BYT group read.


message 7: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments Jennifer W wrote: "I have to get a copy from the library. This will be my first Greene."

I've read several of his books and enjoyed all of them. Hopefully, you will like him as well!


message 8: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments I've read it before too. Here are a couple of interesting articles related to this book:

http://bookertalk.com/2013/12/30/the-...

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1990/...

http://catholicfiction.net/book-revie...


message 9: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Thanks for these links, Roisin. They're definitely whetting my appetite for the book!


message 10: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments : )

Interesting articles, coming from different perspectives.


message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg | 330 comments I'm just getting started on the book. I agree, they are interesting insights into the book. The Booktalker article brought to mind a quote from The Catcher in the Rye, as advice to Holden by his old teacher, Mr. Antolini, by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel. "The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."


message 12: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments Love the quote Greg!
I'm up to part 3 of the book and I've had to put it down for a while. I'm just finding it too depressing. This is the first book by Graham Greene I haven't loved. Hope to get back to it again but needed a break. I hope the rest of you are enjoying it. Maybe discussion will inspire me to get back into it.


message 13: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I read this a couple of years ago and found it a compelling novel. It was interesting to read it after The Lawless Roads, about his travels in Mexico investigating the purges against Catholics.

I remember feeling that he is more sympathetic to the communities he portrays in his novel than those in his non-fiction account. His flawed hero, the unnamed "whisky priest" who somehow can't give up his ministry, is a fascinating character and he really is writing at his peak here. One of his greatest.


message 14: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Great quote Greg!

Sorry Lynaia that you are finding it depressing. Ta Judy for the info. Will look that book up.


message 15: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Just remembered there was a film made of it in 1947, 'The Fugitive', directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as the priest - I have this in a Ford box set but haven't watched it yet. I'll do so soon and report back.


message 16: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments I think part of my problem reading this is that I had just started The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when I saw that this was our fiction choice for the month. I had wanted to read it so I put aside Bronte for Greene. But, I had gotten too interested in the Bronte book and I couldn't really get into this book. So, I'm finishing the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and will come back to this afterwards. Hopefully, I will find it more enjoyable when my mind is more focused on it. Any discussion should help whet my appetite again as well.


message 17: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments I think part of my problem reading this is that I had just started The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when I saw that this was our fiction choice for the month. I had wanted to read it so I put aside Bronte for Greene. But, I had gotten too interested in the Bronte book and I couldn't really get into this book. So, I'm finishing the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and will come back to this afterwards. Hopefully, I will find it more enjoyable when my mind is more focused on it. Any discussion should help whet my appetite again as well.


message 18: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Hope you get back to the Greene. : )

Judy-I did not realise that a film was made of it. Will try to get a copy. Read this book some 15-20 years ago so will read this again.


message 19: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) I haven't had an opportunity to participate in a group read here for a long time, so I'm very glad I've come just at the right time for this book. I just recently read one of Greene's lesser known novels, Monsignor Quixote, and it was charming and funny and unusually light-hearted for Greene.

I have just started The Power and the Glory, and I know I'm in Greene's territory -- I'm already sweaty, and a little on edge.


message 20: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments I just finished reading this. Enjoyed reading it once I finished the other book I had been reading. Learned a valuable lesson. Don't start a new book while still reading another one that I'm enjoying. I know some people read several novels at once, but apparently I can only really focus on one at a time.


message 21: by Greg (new)

Greg | 330 comments I've read the first few chapters. Reading Greene is like watching a movie. Wonderful writing. I'm sure this book will be even richer on a second read.

I tried focussing on just one book at a time. Can't do it. The thing I found, with a book, I've become alert to the fact that it depends on my headspace and attitude at the time. A book can be brilliant but be an unpleasant, depressing or ugly, or frustrating subject. I can read part of a book and put it aside for some weeks and pick up where I left off.


message 22: by Nigeyb (last edited Mar 08, 2016 04:39AM) (new)

Nigeyb I'm with Lynaia - I prefer to just focus on one book at a time. Sometimes two, if one is non-fiction and one is fairly straightforward fiction.

I don't believe anyone on GoodReads can hold a candle to BYT's own Jan C who is currently-reading ‎1319 books - holding the info from each in her head and sometimes picking a book back up after a c4 year gap. Can anyone else come close to that feat?


message 23: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Hehehe! Erm, doubt it. Could be wrong though. : ) I like reading different books in particular factual stuff, so I tend to read a couple of books at the same time. Also I might need to read books for a project/promotion, which would interrupt something else for pleasure or for a reading group.


message 24: by Greg (last edited Mar 10, 2016 01:55AM) (new)

Greg | 330 comments I am enjoying the book. As I read about the relentless hunt for the priest by the lieutenant and the eradication of Catholicism throughout Mexico, this brings to mind reverse examples in history when the Church ruthlessly suppressed different faiths, even other interpretations of Christianity. A good example is well documented (and draws from Vatican archives) in the book Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village, 1294-1324.

Also another more subtle example from more recent history is in the book Huxley in Hollywood. In chapter ten 'Heaven and Hell' p.343, "Censorship has been a problem for American film ever since the 1934 founding of the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency to boycott objectionable films. Among their criteria - incorporated into the first Motion Picture Production Code that year - were prohibitions on excessive violence, nudity, and profanity. Kisses could last no more three seconds; in love scenes, one foot had to remain on the floor at all times."
It got even more farcical when "King Kong relinquished his top side view of Fay Wray as he climbed the Empire State Building."


message 25: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm only into chapter 3, but I'm liking it. I'm only just getting to meet the characters, so I'm eager to see the plot take form.


message 26: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I've finished part 1, and I'm still undecided as to what I think. I'm surprised at how many characters are in this book, and I'm interested to see how their stories come together (if they do).


message 27: by Pip (last edited Mar 23, 2016 08:10AM) (new)

Pip I'm another one who's finding it difficult to get into this book; it really is a very different proposition from other novels by Greene I've read (Our Man In Havana, Brighton Rock, The Quiet American).

I'm finding the characters rather tricky to get a handle on. However, the descriptions of Mexico are incredible; the stultifying heat and the isolation which everyone seems to feel deeply are vivid - I love Janice's comment about feeling sweaty and a little on edge. That is indeed very Greene!

The articles you've all posted above are really helpful and have encouraged me to crack on with it :-)


message 28: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments The story becomes more interesting further in. Would say to those who had difficulty with it, stick with it and it will be more engaging.


message 29: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments To me it is a fascinating look at Catholicism, hypocrisy, and morality. When the lieutenant is critical of the church, his enquiry is a powerful statement for me. What has the church done for Mexico? Encouraged superstition, supported corruption? The confessional, protecting criminals is a topic that is coming more to the forefront today. This book may have been written many years ago, but has aspects of it that concerns debates that people are having today.


message 30: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Greg made some interesting points about role reversal and how the church relentlessly pursued those supporting other interpretations of Christianity. This is often forgotten about in attacks against secular thinking or atheism.

Also compassion is a strong theme too. How far individuals will go to offer compassion.


message 31: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm still working my way through this. I have to say I'm not sure I understand the whiskey priest. He doesn't want to die, but he keeps putting himself just out of harm's way. He continues to "keep" to the covenants of the faith, except that he's a drunk and has fathered a child. I guess I don't see why he doesn't just do what Father Jose did and be a priest without any authority?


message 32: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I finished it tonight and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I didn't develop a feeling for any of the characters.


message 33: by Nigeyb (last edited Apr 12, 2016 02:50AM) (new)

Nigeyb Thanks Jennifer. Your comment got me wondering the extent to which developing a feeling for characters is important to enjoying fiction (or indeed non fiction).

I'm currently reading two biographies (Aleister Crowley and David Litvinoff) and two more unpleasant people it would be hard pressed to imagine. And yet, here's the rub, I am loving both books. Whatever else you can accuse them of, they were never boring.

What do others think? Do you need to like characters - or develop strong feelings - to enjoy a book? How important is it to your enjoyment of a book?


message 34: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Nigey, I've come to realize that I don't like "antiheros". Rabbit, Run or The Catcher in the Rye come to mind. I can still enjoy books if they have *someone* that I care about or if the writing is particularly beautiful or astute. In that vein, I enjoyed The Power and the Glory, but I'm not too sure what the point was. I need for someone to rise above their station, even if it's to rise above it in horrible ways (like the aforementioned Crowley, perhaps). In TPatG, the priest seemed to luck out or be carried along by fate rather than take action, and that's one of the things that can make me dislike a character or a book.


message 35: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb You've mentioned a couple of anti-heroes I like in your second sentence!

I know what you mean about someone who is too passive - I think that wouldn't endear a character to me either. Extreme passivity or apathy is pretty boring in literature... and life.


message 36: by Greg (last edited Apr 12, 2016 06:05PM) (new)

Greg | 330 comments Nigeyb, if I can elaborate on your comment, great writers like Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell create a central character (usually a relatively young man who is an anti-hero), a passive bland type, like Crouchback or Jenkins, and builds around him a caste of extraordinary characters like Widmerpool, or Apthorpe. I was only listening the other night to The Sword of Honour BBC4 adaptation, the part where Apthorpe shows Guy his Thunderbox, and Guy replies in amazement, "You've brought your own lavatory!" Too funny, just cracks me up.


message 37: by Greg (new)

Greg | 330 comments To reply to Jennifer's comment, I happened to read The Power and the Glory while I was already reading Carlos Castaneda's The Active Side of Infinity, both books are set in Mexico. I found there are many aspects of each that relate to the other, that I was intending to talk about when I get around to clarifying them into some order. The experience of reading concurrently two very different books, one is fiction, the other anthropology, both about spiritual journey made each much richer.


message 38: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "You've mentioned a couple of anti-heroes I like in your second sentence!"

Well, I'm glad someone likes them! They've no fan in me! ;)


message 39: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Greg, I was reading someone's review about how this book could be allegory, and it made me think on it a bit. I think if I had some more context, I might have appreciated it more.


message 40: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments I loved it more this time round. Here is my review.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 41: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Jennifer W, asked what was the point. I cannot speak for the author ( : ), but to me it depicted rather well the conflict between faith and reason. As a priest it made sense for him to take the choice that he made. Faith isn't based on logic.

So his choice makes sense. I suppose Greene was trying to describe a world of intolerance against faith. Is it the inspector (?) who asks, what has the church done for Mexico?

This to me is an important point. The priest lives a different life from what the church expects, but it is hypocritical itself.


message 42: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Roisin, I think the priest's hypocrisy is part of why I have a hard time with this. On one hand, I like that he's not perfect and that he has sinned, but on the other, it makes it hard for me to root for him against the state. If he had been a more "pure" or devout man, I think I would have found the inspector and the persecution as a hardship and a trial and I may have hoped he would have overcome and outwitted the police. As he was written in this book, he was flawed and in most ways, he did not regret his sins, so I couldn't understand why he wouldn't give up the priesthood and fade into the background: not be a threat to the state and they would leave him alone.


message 43: by Val (new)

Val Roisin wrote: "Jennifer W, asked what was the point. I cannot speak for the author ( : ), but to me it depicted rather well the conflict between faith and reason. As a priest it made sense for him to take the choice that he made. Faith isn't based on logic."
Yes, I'd agree with that. I would also add that it depicts a conflict between his role as priest, which he is trying to do as well as he can, and his character as a man, which is frequently flawed, asking the question, 'Can a weak man be a good priest?'.


message 44: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments Jennifer W wrote: "Roisin, I think the priest's hypocrisy is part of why I have a hard time with this. On one hand, I like that he's not perfect and that he has sinned, but on the other, it makes it hard for me to ro..."

I don't necessarily think this is hypocrisy on the part of the priest. He has given in to temptation with regards to having had sex and his drinking, but those are failures of the moment. He didn't make a decision to be a drunkard, he just can't resist it. But to give up his priesthood would not be just giving in to temptation. It would be a definite decision to turn his back on God and a final surrender to weakness. It is the line he cannot cross. He knows he is not what God would have him to be but he is still trying.


message 45: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments You've put that so well, Lynaia. I agree - I think what makes the novel so moving is that he is very human and flawed, but still goes on with the work he has chosen and can't bring himself to give it up.


message 46: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments Lynaia wrote: "Jennifer W wrote: "Roisin, I think the priest's hypocrisy is part of why I have a hard time with this. On one hand, I like that he's not perfect and that he has sinned, but on the other, it makes i..."

That's what I was wondering about. I haven't found the book and so haven't read it yet. So I hesitated to comment. But my thoughts were that he made a commitment to God and the priesthood. He may not always be able to resist temptation and give in to weakness but that doesn't make his commitment any less real.

Of course, I could be wrong. He may not regret his weakness or ask forgiveness for it at all. I'll find out once I've found the book and read it.


message 47: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I have a couple of questions about the ending. What happened to Coral? Was she sick when the priest met her? Did I miss something?

Also, I'm curious about the new priest who shows up? Is he supposed to represent that the church won't go away just because the authorities want it to?


message 48: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments This might be a bit helpful. : )

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_P...


message 49: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments I won't go into detail, but I think that there is ambiguity as to what happens to Coral.


message 50: by Roisin (new)

Roisin | 729 comments Good points Lynaia! In Christianity as in Catholicism, humanity is supposed to be tainted due to 'original sin', so humans will never be quite perfect and will always be flawed. The priest is hanging on to threads of God, but can't quite sew them back together. : )

In fact, I thought of how Christlike the character of the priest is in some ways. He knows his probable fate, but continues all the same. He does the things that connects him to being human, yet struggles with his faith. This priest is in fact, no different from most Catholics who struggle with the divide of following Bronze Age ideas with what it is to be human, nature and living in the modern age.


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