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Archive > Group Reads -> April 2020 -> Nomination thread (A book set in, or about, the 1950s won by Our Man In Havana and The Sundial)

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message 1: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Our April 2020 theme will be the 1950s - so that's a book set in, or about, the 1950s that you would like to read and discuss.

It can be either fiction or non-fiction

Please supply the title, author, a brief synopsis, and anything else you'd like to mention about the book, and why you think it might make a good book to discuss.

If your nomination wins then please be willing to fully participate in the subsequent discussion

Happy nominating




message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Well, having pondered long and hard, I've decided to nominate....


Our Man in Havana (1958) by Graham Greene

Here's why...

I read loads of Graham Greene in the 1970s and then ignored him until a few years ago.

Since working my way through his bibliography I have yet to come across anything that isn't provocative, well written, original and surprising. All qualities which lend themselves to both a good read and a good discussion.

Our Man in Havana is set in the Cold War which was a key feature of the 1950s


More about Our Man in Havana...

Graham Greene joined MI6 in August 1941. In London, Greene had been appointed to the subsection dealing with counter-espionage in the Iberian Peninsula, where he had learned about German agents in Portugal sending the Germans fictitious reports, which garnered them expenses and bonuses to add to their basic salary.

One of the agents was "Garbo", a Spanish double agent in Lisbon, who gave his German handlers disinformation, by pretending to control a ring of agents all over England. In fact, he invented armed forces movements and operations from maps, guides and standard military references. Garbo was the main inspiration for Wormold, the protagonist of Our Man in Havana.

Remembering the German agents in Portugal, Greene wrote the first version of the story in 1946, as an outline for a film script, with the story set in Estonia in 1938. The film was never made, and Greene soon realised that Havana, which he had visited several times in the early 1950s, would be a much better setting, with the absurdities of the Cold War being more appropriate for a comedy.

Our Man in Havana predates the Cuban Missile Crisis, but certain aspects of the plot, notably the role of missile installations, appear to anticipate the events of 1962.

Our Man in Havana is one of Graham Greene's 'entertainments,' it tells of MI6's man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.





message 3: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4889 comments Mod
This was a hard choice but I'm going for Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote which was published in 1958.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

My understanding is that the book is different from the iconic film.

Here's the blurb:

"It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction."

From the reviews, it seems that Capote leaves the characters a bit opaque and the ending open so it seems that there's space to discuss our individual interpretations which is always fun.


message 4: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 508 comments Both the nominations so far are books I want to read, but I'm going to nominate Under the Net (1954) by Iris Murdoch. This is her first book.

The blurb :
"Jake Donaghue, garrulous artist, meets Hugo Belfounder, silent philosopher.

Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with formidable Hugo, whose ‘philosophy’ he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric servant-companion, Finn, in a series of adventures that include the kidnapping of a film-star dog, and a political riot in a film-set of ancient Rome. Jake, fascinated, longs to learn Hugo’s secret. Perhaps Hugo’s secret is Hugo himself? Admonished, enlightened, Jake hopes at last to become a real writer. "



Elizabeth (Alaska) "Set in or about" is not the same as written/published in. Did you just leave that part out of the opening post? I am perfectly happy with Our Man in Havana as it is one I have, but it is set in the 1940s. The blurb above for Breakfast at Tiffany's says it also is set in the 1940s.


message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9849 comments Mod
I will nominate: The Sundial The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
by Shirley Jackson

Published in 1958

Aunt Fanny has always been somewhat peculiar. No one is surprised that while the Halloran clan gathers at the crumbling old mansion for a funeral she wanders off to the secret garden. But when she reports the vision she had there, the family is engulfed in fear, violence, and madness. For Aunt Fanny's long-dead father has given her the precise date of the final cataclysm!


message 7: by Susan (last edited Jan 20, 2020 06:39AM) (new)

Susan | 9849 comments Mod
Our Man in Havana was also published in 1958, as was Breakfast at Tiffany's, so that must have been a very good year for publishing!

I also really enjoyed the only Iris Murdoch I have read, so far, so like the look of all the above nominations.


message 8: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: ""Set in or about" is not the same as written/published in. Did you just leave that part out of the opening post?"

Good point Elizabeth. I just went with our standard wording for decade themed nominations.

Written or published in would be more accurate, although a modern book about the 1950s, or set in the era would also be acceptable.

I'd assumed Our Man in Havana was set sometime during the Fulgencio Batista regime (1952 - 1959). Have I got that wrong?

I'm relaxed about when the book is set, especially if it's during the same general era. My recollections of reading Breakfast at Tiffany's many moons ago is that it's not obviously in any particular year although Wikipedia states it's set during autumn 1943. I don't recall that was at all obvious whilst I read it.

What do other members feel about this? Are we most focussed on when the book was published? Or the time when the narrative takes place?

I think it's probably easiest to include any books published during the era, and also any books published outside the era but which are set in the era, or about the era. However if other group members would prefer we do something different then we can discuss that and try and gain a new consensus.


message 9: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
NOMINATIONS SO FAR:


Nigeyb: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Roman Clodia: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Pamela: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Susan: The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

What a magnificent selection so far.

All look very tempting.

From a personal point of view the London-centric nature of Under the Net is especially appealing. But they all look wonderful.




message 10: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 237 comments Nigeyb wrote: "I think it's probably easiest to include any books published during the era, and also any books published outside the era but which are set in the era, or about the era. "

I think we should 'rule out' books written during the era, but about a very different time. For the 1950s, there will be many books written/published then set during the Second World War, or another (more) historical period, but that seems to be outside the point of a book 'about' the 1950s. Otherwise I'd be tempted to recommend The Charioteer by Mary Renault . I could argue that its theme is indeed rooted in the time it was published (1953 in the UK, 1959 in the US), making it a book of the fifties. But by my own argument it would be ruled out for April (perhaps better suited to a different theme).


Elizabeth (Alaska) Nigeyb wrote: "I'd assumed Our Man in Havana was set sometime during the Fulgencio Batista regime (1952 - 1959). Have I got that wrong?"

Thanks for the clarification about the written in. It's how you prefaced the theme over in the Midnight Bell thread.

I thought I read that this was set in the 1940s, but I could be wrong about that. In any case, it's the title that will get my vote and I'll find a place for it in my challenge group.


message 12: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Thanks Rosina - it's a tricky business isn't it?


You make a good point about the many books written in the 1950s about WW2 which would fit a WW2 theme much more readily than a 1950s theme


message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I thought I read that this was set in the 1940s, but I could be wrong about that. In any case, it's the title that will get my vote and I'll find a place for it in my challenge group."

Thanks Elizabeth. You could be correct too. Fulgencio Batista was also president in the 1940s, however I assumed that the book was set during the later period he was a US backed dictator. This would chime with what I also anticipate are some Cold War themes. Graham Greene visited Cuba in the 1950s which again made me err towards a 50s setting. Only one way to find out for sure.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I think you may be right that the 1950s is more likely for this one.

Wikipedia includes this:

The revolutionary government of Cuba allowed the film version of Our Man in Havana to be filmed in the Cuban capital, but Fidel Castro complained that the novel did not accurately portray the brutality of the Batista regime.

In his autobiography, Ways of Escape, Greene commented:

Alas, the book did me little good with the new rulers in Havana. In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimized the terror of Batista's rule. I had not wanted too black a background for a light-hearted comedy, but those who suffered during the years of dictatorship could hardly be expected to appreciate that my real subject was the absurdity of the British agent and not the justice of a revolution.



Elizabeth (Alaska) By the way, I often don't get written humor, so it's hard to tell how much I'll miss. That is, of course, if it wins the poll and I'll be reading it soon. Not a sure thing, I realize.


message 16: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 237 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Thanks Rosina - it's a tricky business isn't it?


You make a good point about the many books written in the 1950s about WW2 which would fit a WW2 theme much more readily than a 1950s theme"


I don't think we've had a WW2 month - well, you know what my recommendation would be (or for a LBGT themed month).


message 17: by Val (new)

Val | 1710 comments Elizabeth, there was an earlier version of the story which was not published. That may be where the 1940s date comes from.


message 18: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "I don't think we've had a WW2 month - well, you know what my recommendation would be (or for a LBGT themed month)"

We have actually - and also one around the Munich Agreement/Phoney War but we've not had a LGBT themed month yet.


message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Val wrote: "Elizabeth, there was an earlier version of the story which was not published. That may be where the 1940s date comes from."

Thanks Val - that could well be it


Elizabeth (Alaska) Val wrote: "Elizabeth, there was an earlier version of the story which was not published. That may be where the 1940s date comes from."

Yes, or maybe I just made it up. ;-) But thanks for giving me support.


message 21: by Clare (new)

Clare Boucher | 80 comments I’m tempted by both the Shirley Jackson and the Iris Murdoch so I won’t make my choice any more difficult by nominating another one. Very happy to read any of these.


message 22: by Val (last edited Jan 20, 2020 10:31AM) (new)

Val | 1710 comments There are already some nominations I would like to read again, but I will nominate the slightly bonkers travelogue
The Towers of Trebizond  by Rose Macaulay
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

From Wikipedia:
The Towers of Trebizond is a novel by Rose Macaulay (1881–1958). Published in 1956, it was the last of her novels, and the most successful. It was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in the year of its publication.
The book is partly autobiographical. It follows the adventures of a group of people – the narrator Laurie, the eccentric Dorothea ffoulkes-Corbett (otherwise Aunt Dot), her High Anglican clergyman friend Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg (who keeps his collection of sacred relics in his pockets) – travelling from Istanbul (or Constantinople as Fr. Chantry-Pigg would have it) to Trebizond. A Turkish feminist doctor attracted to Anglicanism acts as a foil to the main characters.
On the way, they meet magicians, Turkish policemen and juvenile British travel-writers, and observe the BBC and Billy Graham on tour. Aunt Dot proposes to emancipate the women of Turkey by converting them to Anglicanism and popularising the bathing hat, while Laurie has more worldly preoccupations. Historical references (British Christianity since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, nineteenth-century travellers to the Ottoman Empire, the First World War, the Fourth Crusade, St. Paul's third missionary journey, Troy) abound.

PS It was written, published and set in the 1950s.


message 23: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 237 comments Val wrote: "There are already some nominations I would like to read again, but I will nominate the slightly bonkers travelogue
The Towers of Trebizond  by Rose Macaulay
[book:The Towers of Trebizond|7726390..."


This was the read for the retro reads group, in September 2019.


message 24: by Val (last edited Jan 20, 2020 10:28AM) (new)

Val | 1710 comments I just looked at that group discussion. Some people didn't like the ending.
(view spoiler)


message 26: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1181 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Well, having pondered long and hard, I've decided to nominate....


Our Man in Havana (1958) by Graham Greene

Here's why...

I read loads of Graham Greene..."


US - Amazon has a kindle special on Graham Greene today, including Our Man In Havana


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9849 comments Mod
Thanks for posting, Jan.


message 28: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Sometimes I wish I was an American


message 29: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Is anyone else nominating? Or thinking about it?


NOMINATIONS SO FAR:

Nigeyb: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Roman Clodia: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Pamela: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Susan: The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
Val: The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay


message 30: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4534 comments Mod
I won't be nominating this time, as there are so many good choices here already!


message 31: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Thanks Judy


I suspect we've got all the nominations we're going to get but always best to check

Last call for nominations


message 32: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1181 comments I found three non-fiction books ABOUT the '50s lurking on my shelves - New York in the 50's, The Fifties - this is a kindle unlimited book, and Paris in the Fifties.

As this is an international group, I'll go with Stanley Karnow's book about Paris when he was young.

"We meet Christian Dior, who taught Karnow the secrets of haute couture, and Prince Curnonsky, France's leading gourmet, who taught the young reporter to appreciate the complexities of haute cuisine. Karnow takes us to marathon murder trials in musty courtrooms, accompanies a group of tipsy wine connoisseurs on a tour of the Beaujolais vineyards, and recalls the famous automobile race at Le Mans when a catastrophic accident killed more than eighty spectators. Back in Paris, Karnow hung out with visiting celebrities like Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and Audrey Hepburn, and in Paris in the Fifties we meet them too."

Who knew I had this lurking somewhere? Or, perhaps it is sitting in a storage bench.


message 33: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Thanks Jan - sounds intriguing


NOMINATIONS SO FAR:

Nigeyb: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Roman Clodia: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Pamela: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Susan: The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
Val: The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay
Jan: Paris in the Fifties by Stanley Karnow

Is anyone else nominating? Or thinking about it?




message 34: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
The poll is now open...


Click here to go to the poll


message 35: by Sue (new)

Sue (mrskipling) | 221 comments Nigeyb wrote: "The poll is now open...


Click here to go to the poll"


I'm never sure whether to vote, and usually decide not to, because I'm not sure ahead of time how much reading I'll be able to do each month. I always think if I vote for it I've committed to reading it of course.

But if The Towers of Trebizond wins I'll do a little happy dance!


message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9849 comments Mod
You should vote, Sue. Participation is always good, but we understand that members can't fit every book in.


message 37: by Sue (new)

Sue (mrskipling) | 221 comments Oh well that's ok then - I voted!


message 38: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
Well done Sue. We understand if you can't fit the book in when the time comes, though obviously hope you can if it wins.


message 39: by Nigeyb (new)


message 40: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9384 comments Mod
The poll has ended, here are the final results:


Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene - 3 votes, 23.1% %
The Sundial by Shirley Jackson - 3 votes, 23.1% %

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch - 2 votes, 15.4%
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay - 2 votes, 15.4%
Paris in the Fifties by Stanley Karnow - 2 votes, 15.4%

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - 1 vote, 7.7%

As we have two books tied in first place, we have decided to make one of them our moderators choice for April 2020.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene - Group Read
The Sundial by Shirley Jackson - Moderators choice

See you in April 2020

Here's to a couple of wonderful reads and discussions


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