Brighton Rock (1938)

Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust.

One of Greene’s most famous and beloved novels tells the tale of a gang war that is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing, self-appointed sleuth, Ida Arnold, who has made it her job to foil him.

A page-turner and a well-crafted thriller which combines fast-paced action with superior writing to create a novel that feels timeless, even though it was published more than 80 years ago.

Dr Fischer of Geneva (1980)

I think that I used to detest Doctor Fischer more than any other man I have known just as I loved his daughter more than any other woman.

Greene opens up a powerful vision of the limitless greed of the rich in this pitch-black satire. Doctor Fischer despises the human race. A millionaire with a taste for sadism, he spends his time and money planning notorious parties, entertainments designed to expose the shallowness and greed of the Toads, his craven hangers-on.

Alfred Jones is now married to Dr. Fischer’s daughter, and soon receives an invitation to one of the infamous parties, but Jones is very unlike the Toads – he is neither wealthy nor greedy, and he will not accept Fischer’s humiliations.

Endlessly compelling and concise, this short novel has more to say on love and loss as well as the nature of greed and power than books three times its size. 

Our Man In Havana (1959)

It was a city to visit, not a city to live in, but it was the city where Wormold had first fallen in love and he was held to it as though to the scene of a disaster. 

One of Greene’s more light-hearted novels, which were classed by the author as ‘entertainments’, and is certainly one of his funniest. Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of power cuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him, so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he’s tempted. In return all he has to do is carry out a little espionage and file a few reports.

Soon, Wormold begins to fabricate reports and to hire imaginary agents to support him in his growing spy network, but when his fake reports start coming true, things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place. 

As well as being a comic gem, Our Man in Havana is an atmospheric espionage thriller, and a political satire that still resonates to this day. 

The Quiet American (1955)

I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest.

Perhaps the most controversial novel of his career, this is Greene's exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam. Into the intrigue and violence of 1950s Indo-China comes CIA agent Alden Pyle, the eponymous ’Quiet American’ who is young, idealistic and  sent to promote democracy through a mysterious ’Third Force‘.

As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But Fowler‘s motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and himself, for Pyle has stolen Fowler’s beautiful Vietnamese lover.

Greene deftly offers an astute glimpse of American foreign policy and a fascinating love triangle, ingenious in its pace and tone. The Quiet American remains a terrifying and prescient portrait of innocence at large.

The End of the Affair (1951)

I had to touch you with my hands, I had to taste you with my tongue; one can‘t love and do nothing.

A searing, heartrending novel about love, hatred and obsession; a love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off.

After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession. 

One of Greene‘s so-called Catholic novels, it is a beautifully crafted work which never loses touch with the realities of this world – indeed it is so realistic, so full of pain and rage, that you almost want to turn away from the page. You cannot read this and not be moved.

The Power and the Glory (1940)

Hate was just a failure of imagination.

Named one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century by Time magazine, this novel  is considered by many to be Greene’s finest work.  

During a vicious persecution of the clergy in 1930’s Mexico, a worldly priest, the ’whisky priest’, is on the run, fleeing not just an unshakable police lieutenant but also his own wavering morals.  With the police closing in, his routes of escape are being shut off, his chances getting fewer.

As he scraps his way towards salvation, haunted by an affair from his past, the nameless ‘whiskey priest’ is pulled between the bottle and the Bible, but compassion and humanity force him along the road to his destiny, reluctant to abandon those who need him, and those he cares for.

 Timeless and unforgettable, The Power and the Glory shows the best and worst of dogma as well as the cowardice and bravery of human beings by a master storyteller at the height of his powers.


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