The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene

Norton. Jan. 2021. 608p. ISBN 9780393084320. $40. LIT
British author Graham Greene (1904-1991) traveled for much of his life, and his writings often reflected his travels, as biographer Greene (English, Univ. of Toronto; Graham Greene: A Life in Letters), no relation to his subject, makes clear in this detailed study of the influential and widely read writer. Greene wrote about the places he visited not just in the commissioned magazine articles that paid for his travel but also in novels such as The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, and Our Man in Havana. The biographer draws on information unavailable to previous biographers and, in contrast to Norman Sherry’s three-volume study, doesn’t preoccupy himself with his subject’s repeated infidelities. Instead, he writes of a man steady in his work though unsteady in most else, including his mental health. In his travels, Greene often ended up in unusual or unsafe situations, but he remembered all that he witnessed, repurposing it for characters, settings, and situations in subsequent writings. Above all, there was Greene’s strict adherence to Catholicism, and his preoccupation with loss of faith and love.
VERDICT Greene’s life story is both interesting and fascinating, and this balanced account offers the best reading of how his personal life infused and enriched his work.
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