Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Man Within (1929)

The Man Within (1929) is Graham Greene's first published novel, and it really shows. While this psychological semi-thriller is ultimately redeeming, overall it is pretty heavy handed, plodding, and occasionally rather dull.

The Man Within is the story of Andrews, a young man who was orphaned after his long-suffering mother died while he was in boarding school, and his hated booze smuggling father was shot on his own ship. Andrews is met at school by the enigmatic Carlyon, his father's first mate who is a stereotypical heavy with an unusual romantic side that quickly becomes Andrews' only friend. Andrews joins the smugglers, but later double-crosses them, turns them in to the police, and finds himself on the run from his former friends and the law (which is where the book starts). And that is where he meets the girl -- alone in an isolated cottage with her dead guardian/lover in a coffin on the table.

The characters are mostly one-dimensional (and their other dimensions are laid on thick), and the dialogue is pretty stilted, but Greene still manages to find some poetry and interest in the life of his cowardly and self-critical protagonist. And, as a person who loves some nice structure, the ending is just about perfect and potentially redeems the rest of the book.

That being said, I can't wait to read some more Greene. I realize that this is an early work and isn't representative. I hear he is great....

1 comment:

Jennifer LaSuprema said...

Our Man In Havana is pretty hilarious. And The Quiet American is an excellent, dark thriller, as I recall, though it's been about fifteen years since I read it.