THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE by Norman Sherry

THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE

Vol. II: 1939-1955

KIRKUS REVIEW

 This mid-life installment of Greene's authorized biography has all the thrills of the writer's ``entertainments'' and the emotional complexity of his serious works. Picking up from the sometimes overly exhaustive Volume One (1989), this work covers a watershed quarter-century in Greene's life and literary career (as well as in 20th-century history) with nary a dull page. Greene's personal life alone in this period--the breakdown of his marriage during the Blitz, his impassioned affair with a married American while unable to free himself of either his wife or his previous mistress--had more than enough grief for two of his best novels, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, which Sherry shows were anguished reflections of his inner life. Yet with all his interviews and access to Greene's papers, even this astute biographer finds his work more accessible than his personality (not even Greene's friends and lovers could claim full intimacy with him). This natural secrecy made Greene a perfect spy, and during WW II he worked for MI6, a division of the British Secret Intelligence Service, in West Africa and London under his lifelong friend, the Soviet double agent Kim Philby, who provided Sherry with many memories of Greene's espionage career (not always reliably, the author later determined). With the end of the war and his marriage, Greene worked for a while as a publisher and screenwriter (most notably of The Third Man), but a later love affair churned up his suicidal nature, which drew him to the Malayan Emergency, the Mau Mau rebellion, and the Indochinese war. Sherry is at his best retracing Greene's activities in Vietnam, recreating the wartime atmosphere and investigating the sources and inspirations for--as well as the distortions in--The Quiet American. Sherry's admirable work beats out even the writer's own memoirs as the definitive account of his life, although Greene remains a character impossible to penetrate satisfactorily. (51 b&w photos and 6 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-86056-5
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994