08 February 2008

Book Review: The Quiet American by Graham Greene

888 Challenge #4

The Quiet American The quiet American is now quiet indeed, silenced forever by a rusty bayonet and the mud of the river. The French police in Saigon have a number of questions for British journalist Thomas Fowler, who was befriended by Pyle after the latter arrived with a head too full of ideals and good intentions to hold much good sense. Fowler’s not saying much to the police, but for the reader he detours back through the history of his acquaintance with Pyle. Soon the reasons emerge why someone might have wanted him dead, for not only was he trying to marshal a force to take on both the French and the Communists, but he cost Fowler his Vietnamese mistress.

For the first time in ages, I’ve run into a reviewer’s nightmare: A book about which I can think of very little to say. The two main characters were well-drawn, but apart from Phuong and General The I’m already having trouble remembering the others. Early on I had to stop and think about what was up with all the fighting, but I have my poor grasp of twentieth-century history to thank for that. The most fun to be had in the reading - since it’s really not a cheerful book - was keeping up a running comparison to the movie (and noting things like, They got the wrong colour dog). Perhaps it would have been more suspenseful if I didn’t remember exactly what it was that Fowler wasn’t telling. (The movie, by the way, turns out to have been a very good adaptation.) Still, the main characters alone make it worth reading.

Rating: B-

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776