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The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 2 Sep 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099288524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099288527
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,208 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

Review

"Graham Greene's beautiful and disturbing novel is filled with tenderness, humour, excitement and doubt" The Times "As fine a novel as he has ever written - concise, ironic, acutely observant of contemporary life, funny, shocking, above all compassionate" -- Anthony Burgess "Graham Greene's beautiful and disturbing novel is filled with tenderness, humour, excitement and doubt" The Times "It is beautifully done, a pleasure to read, a succession of deft, unobtrusive, yet masterly touches" Guardian

Book Description

A classic espionage novel.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By blackeyedsoosan on 4 July 2003
Format: Paperback
This gripping cold-war spy story will keep you reading way past your bedtime - even when I was on the penultimate page, I had not guessed how this brilliantly characterised novel would end. Graham Greene paints a picture of the most confidential 'department of the Foreign Office' (aka 'the firm') as one staffed by emotionally stunted heavy-drinkers who return to their lonely flats with no-one to telephone for a chat. The (anti-)hero of the novel, Maurice Castle, is strikingly contrasted from this grey bureaucratic backdrop from the beginning. The telephone motif weaves its way throughout the novel, becoming an ever-more sinister symbol for deceit, betrayal, and ultimately leading to a chilling denouement.
This novel has more in common with the Melita Norwood school of spying than with James Bond, and is all the more convincing as a result. Just remember to watch for all the clues once you've become engrossed in the plot!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Pierson on 5 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
Greene's writing is always correct, deft and engrossing without the flash of pomp or needless audacity. Nor is it terse or markedly clipped. Simply put, Greene novels are effortlessly compelling and calmly faultless.

The Human Factor is a novel more about the fatiguing and tiresome business of constant occupational mistrust as about the excitement and intrigue of agents and double-agents. The novel's principal characters are heads of divisions stuck in their ways, blinded by their own routine compartmentalising (to the detriment of compassion, of that `human factor'), and their lesser agents- lonely men who find solace too frequently in a quadruple J & B.

Though I've enjoyed other Graham Greene novels more than this one (The End of the Affair and To the Heart of the Matter I consider his finest works), his copious output maintained a consistently high standard, and this certainly does not fall short.

The Human Factor is a very good book. Anyone familiar with Graham Greene's work would, quite rightly, expect nothing less.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Oct 1999
Format: Paperback
The Human Factor is a rare thing, a novel about spies and spying that reveals the humanity beneath the actions of spies and (double) agents. Castle has to work with his former enemy, the BOSS agent who killed his friend and plotted against his now-wife Sara in the old apartheid South Africa. Castle is also working for the Russians. To say more would be to spoil the suspense of the book, but the more revelations that come out of the real-life espionage world of that era (1960's and 1970's), the more authentic the spying parts of this book seem. Sit back and enjoy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Feb 2012
Format: Paperback
Maurice Castle is a desk officer in MI6, handing minor stuff from some African countries. He had previously worked in the embassy in South Africa, but had been forced to leave because he had violated the race laws by having a black girlfriend, Sarah. He also associated with members of the Communist Party. In England he had married Sarah and adopted her son. They now live an apparently quiet, uneventful life in suburbia.

But all is not as it seems, and following a leak of material that can only have come from Castle's department, a full-scale security check is undertaken. On the slimmest of evidence, suspicion falls on Castle's assistant Davies, who is then killed, using an experimental poison, by MI6's cold, calculating and evil doctor, Dr Percival. He has acted on his own authority and the Head of Security, Colonel Dainty, does not believe Davies was guilty. Dainty is one of the few colleagues Castle respects, because he is a sensitive man, who still believes in evidence and the rule of law. A visit to London by a senior member of the South African Secret Service, Dr. Muller (who knew Castle in Africa) also raises doubts about whether Davies really was the leak and suspicion begins to fall on Castle, who has in fact been sending material to his Russian handlers for years. Although not a communist, he has been doing this because of sympathy with black Africans.

Castle realizes that the game cannot continue, and comes very close to admitting his guilt to Dainty, who informs the service. But the Russians move very quickly and smuggle Castle out of the country. In Moscow he learns that the material he has been sending was actually worthless, but has been used to catch a mole within the Russian Secret Service. He has been cynically used.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bixby on 21 Aug 2006
Format: Paperback
This book turned me into a Greene afficionado and I read his books whenever I could find them. But after reading nearly his entire life's output, I came to realize that this book is the best of them all. It is the work of a mature mind and it nearly broke my heart. I could say more, but I will leave it at this: If you want to know Greene at the height of his talent and skill, this is the book you must read. If you want to convince a friend to read Greene, this is the novel you should give that person. It succeeds on every level--a true thriller, a love story, a character study of a man divided against himself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Stanhope on 17 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Graham Greene is an author I've always wanted to really get into but some of his books leave me a bit cold. I brought this on a whim and I found it totally gripping. It's not one of his more famous books but it's definitely one of his best. The suspense slowly builds and you know there's going to be a twist in the story line. I found it extremely believable and not too far fetched like some spy stories. The best book I've read so far in 2012......
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