The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Published by: Vintage Books
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Historical Fiction
Date Read: 15/12/2014
Links: Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository
Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China comes Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious ‘Third Force’. As his naïve optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love?
Written by Graham Greene in 1955, this is set in Vietnam, told by a newspaper reporter who prides himself on not becoming engaged. The narrator is Thomas Fowler, a British journalist. Alden Pyle is the “quiet American,” preoccupied with realizing Vietnamese democracy, not to mention the love of Fowler’s beautiful Vietnamese mistress, Phuong. His views are upset by a well-meaning, naïve young American who comes to town brimming with academic ideas about how to end the war. In the process, the American falls in love with the narrator’s Vietnamese woman and awkwardly but honestly sets about pursuing her.
Knowing that this book was highly regarded as a classic of modern American fiction I had huge hopes for it. Unfortunately this soon dwindled as the pages kept turning and I found it harder and harder to care about what was going on.
What let the book down for me was the narrative, initially I was interested in the relationship between the journalist Fowler and ‘The Quiet American’ Pyle but about half way through the book their characters did not seem to progress, there seemed to be very little growth, perhaps they both found something more about themselves towards the end of the book but I just felt it wasn’t enough.
Part of the problem is perhaps I just didn’t grasp the intricate nature of two people far away from home, both in Vietnam and both trying to do what they felt was right within a country and a culture and a time that I have very little knowledge of.
While there’s nothing specifically wrong with this book, it didn’t leave much of an impression. I wouldn’t recommend Greene unless the reader has a particular interest in the subject matter.