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The Power and the Glory
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1001 book reviews > The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene

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Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 481 comments A 'whiskey priest' is on the run from an anti-Catholic Mexican government that will execute him for being a priest, good priest or not, if they ever catch him. While on the run, and always true to his love of alcohol and women, he somehow becomes a people's hero to all the Catholics he meets, as the only priest brave enough to remain a practicing priest. Lacking the sanctimonious, hypocritical air of so many of his fellow priests because of his own happily admitted fallen status, he actually represents more faithfully the Christian ideals demonstrated in the New Testament. And, while his luck eventually has to run out, he paves the way for others through his good deeds.
This is one of Greene's 'Catholic' novels, and in this story he seems to be taking on what it means to be a good man and a good priest, and why it matters. In the setting of this novel, it is quite possible for there to be no more Catholic church, as that is the goal of the government, and so few priests remain at the start of this story. In the course of our hero's adventures, the question lingers in the background, and sometimes within the story itself, "what is the value of Catholicism?", and "why should it matter if the Catholic Church exists or not?" Whether the answers are at all apparent by the end of the book, and as an atheist reader I found no really compelling reasons within the text to maintain that religion or church, the story does explore the value within the Mexican culture of Catholicism and the ways that trying to stamp out a people's belief system can backfire. The government in this book is given no really clear justifications for why it is trying to eradicate this whole religion, and the result of their efforts seems to be simply to alienate the people from their own government. The people do not cease to be Catholic simply because they have no priests available.
I enjoyed this book. I like most of Greene's novels, and this one was well done. The whiskey priest reminded me a lot of Rincewind the Wizzard, and living in the US Southwest the climate and terrain of this book was familiar to me. The story is fairly simple on the surface, so it is easy to read, but there is a lot going on under the surface, making this a good book for book club groups to discuss.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

message 2: by Pip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 1481 comments Greene explores the meaning of faith, the role of the priest in the catholic church, the failures of totalitarianism and what duty means in the setting of Tabasco Province in Mexico in the 1930's. Greene is very good at creating atmosphere. Here the heat, the tropical torpor, the disintegration of both people and buildings is almost palpable. But it is the depiction of two idealistic men, one a priest who keenly feels his own failures and the other a police lieutenant who wants to help the people but resorts to terrorism to prove his beliefs, which is truly masterful. This is a five star read.

Gail (gailifer) | 1536 comments My favorite Greene so far, this short novel is rich in the hot and oppressive atmosphere of 1930's revolutionary Mexico, and yet rather than describing large movements of people and their theories, this story gives us an intimate insight into two representatives of the times: a "whiskey" or fallen priest and an idealist young socialist lieutenant fighting for "the people". In contrasting the two individuals, Greene is able to discuss the nature of belief systems and the dangers inherent in being too true a believer in any system. He brings into focus the contrasting nature of faith in a God, versus a faith in people, but ultimately leaves us feeling that these faiths are tangled, that good and evil are complimentary and will always exist in the world rather than something that an individual can really change. Greene also introduces the nature of story telling itself, and how our need to tell stories that promote our belief systems is complimented by the need to hear those stories that will sustain us through difficult times.

George P. | 541 comments "I shouldn't have waited so long to read this novel". This was my overriding thought as I neared the end of this book. I'm making it unanimous five-star ratings of the reviews posted here so far. Very spare prose, somewhat reminiscent of Hemingway, especially his For Whom the Bell Tolls, though the style is not the same.
The drama of the story of characters in conflict both trying to do the right thing but unsure if they are fit the style of writing very well. The minor characters are all interesting and well-drawn as well. It's great.
Having visited Mexico a few times and several other Latin-American countries added to my interest in the novel.
Now I need to read the few Greene works I haven't yet read and re-read the ones I read so long ago.

Book Wormy | 2078 comments Mod
3 Stars

While some consider this Greene’s best work for me it was more meh than yeah. There are a couple of reasons why I think this could be one of them is that I have read (IMO) better Greene novels (The End of the Affair) and the other is I have read better religious persecution novels (Silence by Shūsaku Endō) that said I am constantly impressed by Greene’s writing ability even when exploring a similar central theme in his novels he can change the time and the place t make a completely different story no Greene novel ever feels the same.

While this book wasn’t for me I can see why it is included on the list. The Whisky Priest is all too human he wants to survive, feels guilty that his survival causes the death of others, wants to be betrayed to bring an end to running and yet when he has the chance to escape he willing returns to danger to save another soul. As a character he is brilliantly human and his journey shows the good and bad side of mankind. I loved the way he has sinned and yet doesn’t want absolution because the result of the sin is something good. You can’t beat Greene for a conflicted character.

Patrick Robitaille | 1003 comments *** 1/2

Set in the southern states of Mexico in the 1920s during the revolutionary period of the atheist and anticlerical President Calles, an alcoholic priest is on the run, fighting for his survival amid a campaign to eradicate the Catholic Church. On his tail is a lieutenant, capable of hatching atrocious plans while displaying a very humane side, and a mestizo, seeking his own redemption, but ultimately turning Judas. It is a story about the conflict between good and evil in the context of the Catholic religion and its contradicting impacts on certain individuals. It is also generally a story of religious persecution, which could have been set in another context and with another religion. While the story is fairly linear and predictable, it is the treatment of the topic and the development of the story until its conclusion which gives this book its interest. Yet it is another example of Greene's mastery for casting conflicted individuals. I preferred this to Brighton Rock, but it still doesn't reach the heights of his later novels, in my opinion.

Kristel (kristelh) | 4259 comments Mod
This novel, published by Graham Greene in 1940 is set in Mexico during the 1930 Cristero Wars (1927-19290). The government has decided to annihilate the Catholic Church. The Whiskey Priest is unnamed, views himself as a "bad priest" is the one who continues to respond to the people's' needs and to do his priestly duties despite his thinking himself a bad priest. Others have been killed or have taken the escape of marrying and going on a pension provided by the government. The Mestizo is a Judas character, he continues to seek out financial gain by betraying the whiskey priest to the enemy, namely the lieutenant. The side stories are of Mr Tench the English Dentist, the Fellows (English man and his family who works on a banana plantation),and the Woman, mother of 3, who is reading a cleaned up, dramatized story of a martyr Juan to her children. The church has always survived persecution and the rally "Viva Cristo Rey" or long live Christ the King settles into the heart of the young man who at first appeared fascinated by the soldiers and their guns. The Church will survive. My rating 4.4 stars

Daisey | 272 comments Book wrote: "3 Stars

While some consider this Greene’s best work for me it was more meh than yeah. There are a couple of reasons why I think this could be one of them is that I have read (IMO) better Greene no..."

I thought about Silence several times while reading this book as well and that this one did not come across nearly as powerfully to me.

Daisey | 272 comments I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I had a tough time getting into at the beginning and keeping the characters straight. Once I finally got involved in the main story of the priest, I appreciated it more. When I finished it, I even went back to the beginning to listen to it again, and the connections between characters made so much more sense to me.

I did appreciate the many shades of gray in the characters of this story, and it seemed very realistic and relevant to me. Humans all have faults, but religion is still an important aspect of people's lives and cannot just be outlawed.

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