Our Man in Havana (Graham Greene)
This book was not I was expecting. I thought I was getting a serious gangster or spy story - like Brighton Rock or The Quiet American - but actually this turns out to be a rather bonkers, flighty ‘entertainment’ as Greene termed it. It tells the story of a vacuum salesman in Havana that bizarrely gets recruited to work for the British SIS because no one else can be found. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and just makes up all his reports replete with a Cuban plot and ever increasing fictitious sub agents in order to earn money for his daughter. To his confusion, the things he’s made up start to come true. Parts of this were really funny, and all of it was entertaining; to my eyes, similar and better than Catch 22 although I haven’t yet read all of Catch. I especially liked the part where he met his fake agents and the capery of his lies unraveling in the last third.
The narrative has a real rhythm and drive behind it, and although the tone is mighty flippant and whimsical, you can feel Greene’s mastery everywhere, it’s in the little flourishes of description, the internal consistency of details and the tightly moving pace. if I had to criticise, I found parts went slightly too fast for me, and on occasion, the comedy overtook the narrative which left the writing feeling slightly imprecise.
Our Man in Havana is available on Amazon