In a small continental country civil war is raging.
Once a lecturer in medieval French, now a confidential agent, D is a scarred stranger in a seemingly casual England, sent on a mission to buy coal at any price. Initially, this seems to be a matter of straightforward negotiation, but soon, implicated in murder, accused of possessing false documents and theft, held responsible for the death of a young woman, D becomes a hunted man, tormented by allegiances, doubts and the love of others.
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Am unusual Graham Greene well performed by TPS
I'm not interested in rankings like this. I recommend it, so listen to it and make up your own mind.
There's a touch of nightmarish surrealism about this so in part it reminded me of Kafka's The Trial. It's also reminiscent of some pulp noir novels of the period, luridly exaggerated and unlikely in tone but still compelling as it goes on. Also a touch of Conrad's The Secret Agent and John Buchan's Thirty Nine Steps.
He is very good but the novel is a demanding one to read and I'm not sure the protagonist's foreign accent is absolutely necessary, although he is the 'confidential agent' of the government forces in the Spanish Civil War so I'm sure the makers would argue it is. TPS is a brilliant reader however.
It wouldn't be what it actually was on the posters of the 1945 film with Lauren Bacall and Charles Boyer 'Watch her lips answer the call ... ' which refers to Lauren Bacall's famous line to Bogart in To Have and to Have Not and has nothing to do with this film or book.
It's a shame the questions above don't ask anything about the book itself. It grew on me. I'm a huge Greene fan (lifelong) but had never read this one. So I was quite surprised. The London setting is very interesting, the period in the run up to World War Two is also interesting - full of threat and menace, the war looming in the background, the contrast between the peaceful UK and the war torn Europe pervading the book written before war even began but evoking the complacency of politicians of the time as war became increasingly inevitable. Greene writes of the horror of aerial bombing, the slaughter of women and children, starvation and destitution. It's a sombre book but ultimately very gripping. Not my favourite Greene but well worth reading or listening to.
- John Saddler
Goes on a bit