Travels With My Aunt - Graham Greene (1969)

Graham Greene, as a writer, often flies below the radar in America; which is ironic since so many of his works have been made into movies which have had great success: The Quiet American, The End of the Affair (twice), the great The Third Man, and, of course, Travels With My Aunt. Greene is a writer comfortable with a wide variety of styles and tones. The Comdedians (previously reviewed here) is dark and brooding. Travels With My Aunt is funny, almost screwball, while managing at the same time to make a few interesting insights into human nature.

The plot is fairly straightforward. An uptight retired banker, Henry Pulling, encounters his aged aunt at his mother's funeral. She convinces him to go traveling with him and soon the respectable Englishman is mixed up with lowlifes and hoodlums from Brighton across Europe to Istanbul, and ultimately to Paraguay. Along the way, many of his beliefs about what is right and wrong, who he is and ultimately what his place in the world is and should be are challenged.

While this sort of thing might seem to be well-trodden ground (Hello, Dolly and Mame come quickly to mind), Greene's take on the buttoned-down younger man and a wild older female relation is sparkling and original. It mixes in elements of a caper novel, as well, giving the whole thing a velocity which is almost inebriating. The book practically reads itself.

While a good book and an engaging read, it is not, perhaps in the first rank of Greene's work - but second rank Greene is still quite good.

Overall Grade: B+

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