More like a novella than a full blown novel, this story is hard as nails as Greene paints an evocative picture of war-ravished Vienna in the grey wintertime.
I found the fact that Greene had adopted an unusual point of view for this novel difficult. The narrator is a police inspector who isn’t the main character in the book. This was confusing at times and it made me wonder why he did it. I’ve read a lot of Greene and I can’t think of another work where he does this.
But the book resounds with imagery of the bleak choices we face in life, the different pathways that we take and the way we justify them to those around us and our own souls. In this at least, it’s classic Greene.
One never knows when the blow may fall.
ersatz: imitation, substitute
shako: bearskin: tall hat; worn by some British soldiers on ceremonial occasions
tatting: lace making: the act or art of making handmade lace
mortmain: dead hand: the oppressive influence of past events of decisions
“Was he clever at school?” “Not the way they wanted him to be.”
He watched her while she made [tea], made it, of course, all wrong: the water not on the boil, the teapot unheated, too few leaves. She said, “I never quite understand why English people like tea.”
We never get accustomed to being less important to other people than they are to us.
Poor all of us, come to think of it.
terrible > poor > mediocre> okay > good > very good > excellent > superb
2007 – March