Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

Our Man In Havana
Publisher:  Vintage Classics
ISBN 0099286084

I finished Our Man In Havana last week, but have been waiting to post the review until after our Book Club meeting, in case our discussion makes me think of the book in a different way.

Short synopsis:  Jim Wormold is a British national living in Cuba in the 1950's.  He's a struggling vacuum salesman with an expensive daughter and finds himself in over his head working as a spy for the British, falsifying sub-agents and security reports so that he can claim the wages/expenses.

I've heard a lot of good things about Graham Greene as an author in recent months, and was looking forward to getting into the book.  My initial impression was that it was OK, not bad at all, but not great either.  I felt it was a little slow until the end when the pace suddenly picked up. I wasn't keen on the characters, though I did like the friendship between Wormold and Mr H. I've seen reviews where people have liked the book but didn't like the ending, but at first I felt totally the opposite. I was pretty ambivalent to most of the book but enjoyed the culmination of events in Cuba.

Now that I've had time to discuss and reflect I would like to change my opinion. When viewed as a farce, and a dig at the British Intelligence community it is good. As an observer to the events you are able to see the slow build towards catastrophe, and ridiculousness of the entire situation makes it all quite entertaining.

I may not have loved the style of writing, and the characters each really got on my nerves, and now agree that the last few pages are a touch disappointing, but having said all that it's a pretty good read. I don't think it really lived up to my expectations, and the book didn't make it onto my favourites list, but it's not in the abandoned forever pile either.

The lovely Helen at Fennell Books will probably be writing her own review shortly, so pop over there to see if/how her opinion differs.  I'll be watching for it too, as she wasn't able to attend the club.


  1. Hello! My review is up. I am a Graham Greene fan, although I did find Brighton Rock hard going. I enjoyed Our Man In Havana very much. I love the inevitable doom hovering over Wormold as he gets deeper and deeper into his lies. Greene does a strong line in "Englishmen in uncomfortable situations" and this one is up there with Travels With My Aunt for me. I think Greene's work is quite wide in style. Brighton Rock is very much a character study of the way people are brought up and how they deal with the ideas given to them as children. Havana was just fun for me.

  2. Hi Nellie, it's growing on me as I think about it :) I'll check out your review thanks. I have Ministry of Fear on the shelf waiting, Travels with my Aunt is on my wish list, I haven't given up on Greene :)