Monday, March 8, 2010

The Comedians by Graham Greene

The library's Tuesday night book group will discuss Graham Greene's The Comedians, tomorrow night from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Mr. Brown, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones meet on a ship to Haiti in the 1960's during the brutal regime of Papa Doc Duvalier, each an actor ("comedian") destined to play a small part in the politics of the island. Mr. Brown, the detached observer, an Englishman who owns a hotel on the island narrates. Mr. Smith and his wife have come to start a vegetarian center on the impoverished island, a plan whose irony escapes the idealistic Americans. Mr. Jones, another Englishman, is a con artist, but we're not sure what his con is until the end.

The writing is elegant; the tone is ironic, arch, darkly amusing in a standoffish, regrettful way; the themes are apparently the usual ones from 'Greeneland' - dealing with virtue and committment to a cause and how to lead a life with meaning. Read the reviews linked below for more details about the plot, themes and characters.

I was initially intimidated by the dense style of the book, because it was hard to adjust to reading a "classic" after indulging in page-turner best sellers and light mysteries. But the book picks up speed, drew me in and had me avidly turning pages by the second half.

Recommended for readers interested in trying a Greene novel without pain, interested in the historical background of Haiti, or trying to balance their light reading with a classic.

Related links:

NYT review

Amazon reviews

The Guardian

BBC Haiti history timeline

Graham Greene bibliography on Fantastic Fiction

JerseyClicks databases include Literary Reference Center

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