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A Sort Of Life [Paperback]

Graham Greene
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

2 Sep 1999
Graham Greene's 'long journey through time' began in 1904, when he was born into a tribe of Greenes based in Berkhamstead at the public school where his father was headmaster. In A Sort of Life Greene recalls schooldays and Oxford, adolescent encounters with psychoanalysis and Russian roulette, his marriage and conversion to Catholicism, and how he rashly resigned from The Times when his first novel, The Man Within was published in 1929. A Sort of Life reveals, brilliantly and compellingly, a life lived and an art obsessed by 'the dangerous edge of things'.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099282577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099282570
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 171,841 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.

Product Description


"A great writer who spoke brilliantly to a whole generation" (Alec Guinness)

"The setting of his life is beautifully observed and conveyed. I have never admired his writing more - the masterly skill and economy; the excitement he manages to pump, not just into the narrative, but into the very sentences, which throb and glow themselves" (Observer)

"A subversive hero, self-consciously seeking out (in Browning's words) 'the dangerous edge of things,' who lived everywhere and nowhere, a man whom few people ever knew... Greene was a restless traveler, a committed writer, a terrible husband, an appalling father and an admitted manic-depressive" (New York Times)

"This is the work of a remarkable man determined to show he is not particularly remarkable...his fame is secure" (Daily Telegraph)

"Greene wrote some of the most commanding English novels of the twentieth century and some of the slickest commercial thrillers" (Newsday)

Book Description

The first volume of Graham Greene's notoriously misleading, mischievous , but nonetheless fascinating autobiography.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 'life-long war against boredom' 27 Sep 2012
By s k
Graham Greene's A Sort of Life is a short yet intense reflection on his formative years. It is dense with information, and reveals an unforeseen side to Greene's character, the pages gradually unpicking his persona to limn a melancholy and unsettled boy, a manic-depressive. The prose, as ever, is abrupt and spare, the deadpan delivery smothering some truly shocking moments. And, in the course of this book, there are shocks aplenty.

The book follows Greene's trajectory from being a bullied schoolboy to a semi-successful novelist. That, however, is only a chronological synopsis. The real enjoyment is in following Greene's 'life-long war against boredom'. And how did he pacify such an appetite? Well, he played truant, entered into futile loves, gambled with Russian roulette, had a perfectly healthy tooth extracted (the ether giving him 'a holiday from the world'), spent his Oxford years permanently blotto, smoked opium, sought work as a double agent, underwent psychoanalysis, and, finally, indulged his insatiable wanderlust. It is both unflagging and breathtakingly exciting, a huge contrast to the current trends of youthful lassitude.

Running parallel to all these shenanigans, however, is Greene's growth as a writer. He relates his childhood literary tastes and states the profound influence of children's literature on his imagination. His thoughts, meanwhile, on what and how to write are stimulating, his juvenilia openly ridiculed yet noted as an essential apprenticeship to serve. To convey his literary methodology, Greene marks a similarity between the novelist and the spy, its aptness echoing his life's amalgamation of art and espionage: 'he watches, he overhears, he seeks motives and analyses character, and in his attempt to serve literature he is unscrupulous'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Sort of Autobiography 8 Jan 2014
By Calypso
A sort of life recounts the early years of Graham Greene's life and career as an author. It broadly traces his childhood and early adulthood.

Greene came from a privileged and tutored background. He records with some candour; a childhood breakdown and subsequent psychoanalysis; his obsession with Russian roulette; his earliest fantasies and frustrations. Through his writing one senses the repression and dysfunctionality of his family life and the impact that it had on him. However, there is no real insight or judgement given, in many ways this is merely a chronological account of his life. Important aspects are barely mentioned, particularly the relationship with his wife. Indeed one is left with the impression of a cold and insensitive man. As an example he recounts, in no more than a few words, following a group of soldiers in the hope of seeing a rape.

For one of the best known authors the style is dry and tedious with an annoying tendency to repeat anecdotes. The most interesting sections deal with his views on writing which are, alas, few and far between. Disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nostalgic 12 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Different writing style and evoked memories of days gone by. Some interesting insights into the author's early life - it is on my bedside table at the moment! Recommend this, although very different to his well known books, ie The Heart of the Matter, The Honorary Consul, Our Man in Havana etc.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Sort of Autobiography 13 July 2013
A sort of life is a kind of Autobiography. It follows his life from a schoolmaster's son in town of Berkhamsted to Oxford and beyond. It shows him living in the moment, playing Russian roulette and generally being critical of everything in life including himself. The book is intriguing and well written; indeed at times I think it contains some of Greene's best writing. The book leaves you hungry for more but is somehow not fulfilling as a story in the way that his earlier works like The Power and the Glory and Brighton Rock are.
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