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Our Man in Havana (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 1 Mar 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099286084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099286080
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Graham Greene was born in 1904. He worked as a journalist and critic, and in 1940 became literary editor of the Spectator. He was later employed by the Foreign Office. As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography, two of biography and four books for children. He also wrote hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.

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Review

"As comical, satirical, atmospherical an "entertainment" as he has given us" (Daily Telegraph)

"He had a sharp nose for trouble and injustice. In Our Man In Havana - a witty send-up of an agent's life - it was Cuba before Castro" (Financial Times)

"Nobody should be anywhere near power who hasn't read (or seen the film of) Our Man in Havana, a powerful satire on the silly world of spying by a man who had experienced it" (Mail on Sunday)

"Graham Greene was a profound and experimental stylist" (Time Out)

"The human story is warm and the satire made me laugh out loud" (Simon Shepherd Daily Express)

Book Description

'No serious writer of this century has more thoroughly invaded and shaped the public imagination than did Graham Greene' Time

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Double on 21 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great cold war "spy" book. I loved it. Written over 50 years ago it is still funny and just so well written. I was expecting a light spy spoof, but this book is just so much more. At just over 200 pages it shows that good writers dont need 800+ pages to develop characters or tension. Highly recommended.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 19 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
Gleefully combining the raucous humor of absurdity with slyly subtle wordplay and caustic satire, Greene entertains on every level, skewering British intelligence-gathering services during the Cold War. Setting the novel in the flamboyant atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Havana, where virtually anything can be had at a price, Greene establishes his contrasts and ironies early, creating a hilarious set piece which satirizes both the British government's never-satisfied desire for secrets about foreign political movements and their belief that the most banal of activities constitute threats to national security.
Ex-patriot James Wormold is a mild-mannered, marginal businessman and vacuum cleaner salesman, whose spoiled teenage daughter sees herself as part of the equestrian and country club set. Approached by MI6 in a public restroom, Wormold finds himself unwillingly recruited to be "our man in Havana," a role which will reward him handsomely for information and allow him some much-needed financial breathing room.
Encouraged to recruit other agents to provide more information (and earn even more money), he chooses names at random from the country club membership list and fabricates personas for them, featuring them in fictionalized little dramas which he churns out and forwards to his "handlers." Always careful to fulfill their expectations exactly, Wormold becomes a more and more important "spy," his stories become more creative, his "enemies" find him and his "agents" to be dangerous, and his friends and the real people whose names were used as fictional agents begin to turn up dead.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
A marvellous story about a vacuum cleaner salesman caught up in the world of espionage, purely to buy his daughter a pony for her birthday. The characters are so real that you feel that you know them personally, and the style of writing employed by Graham Greene is an example of what can be done with the English language in the hands of a truly great writer. The chapter in which the British secret service peruse the sketches sent from Havana by Wormold is one of the funniest I have ever read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I found it very interesting reading, on my rather old battered copy of this book, that Graham Greene himself rated `Our Man in Havana' as not a novel but as an entertainment. Having now read it I can see what he means I think. A novel is a novel but this isn't the kind of book that you might expect from Graham Green because its not exactly literary even thought it's actually very well written. In fact you would almost think that `Our Man in Havana' was a pastiche of a James Bond novel whilst also being a comedy of errors in some ways. Hmmm, hard one to describe, maybe a little sharing of the story will help.

`Our Man in Havana' is of course set in Cuba under the regime of Batista and our protagonist Wormold, who's wife has left him alone with his daughter who is rather high maintenance in more ways than one, is selling vacuum cleaners for a living with the odd drink or five with his friend Dr Hasselbacher. This all changes however when he meets Hawthorne, a man from British Intelligence who is looking for a new agent and who decides that Wormold is the perfect man for the job. However Wormold isn't the perfect man or agent for the job, though he thinks the money is brilliant and to keep it coming starts making up agents, their storylines and tales of espionage in the depths of Cuba. Things start to get a little more complicated for Wormold, and all the more entertaining for the reader, as the things he makes up start to actually happen.

I did enjoy this book as a read, it didn't blow me away liked I hoped it would. I liked the idea of your average man becoming a hopeless spy, yet really all we had was Wormold telling lies and creating mild deceptions for his own gains which kind of put me off him. I know that shouldn't matter but it did a bit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RichardP on 13 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Plenty of positive reviews already, nothing more to be said really. It is a short but terrific read. Are affairs such as this completely out of date? Is there any redolence of "Weapons of Mass Destruction"?, for me there certainly is.

Tony Blair was a 'honest sort of a guy' I think he said, so perhaps he too saw what he wanted.

If you enjoy this, I recommend the film (Alec Guinness in the lead). A black and white gem shot in Havana.

And then of course most of the rest of Graham Greene's work......
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 May 2000
Format: Paperback
His daughter was at an expensive age. She wanted a horse; she wanted the tack; she wanted it housed at the country club. And what father can refuse his daughter. She had lost her mother to a rich American in Miami. He was the sole representative of Phastcleaners in Batista's Cuba: a living, but not a glamorous one.
But the times were changing. The Cold War dominated East-West relations and who knew which way the wind would blow in the Caribbean? Already the Communist rebels were striking at Batista's dictatorship - how long could it last? How long before the merchant-king expatriates would need to return to "home soil"?
So when shy and lame Mr. Wormold agreed to become MI6's "man in Havana", how was he to know the consequences of his actions? Was it greed - $300 per month plus salaries and expenses for all his sub agents - that led him to invent his spy ring? Or was it concern for his daughter who was growing up. Growing away. Who needed to attend a finishing school and needed a dowry? Or was it just Cuba?
Or was it the ignorance of the mastermind's behind the Great Game who saw things where they weren't. Who needed to justify their jobs. No one likes to their life or lifestyle threatened.
Not even Mr. Wormold...
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