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The Quiet American [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2005
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 naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. Even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (5 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009948157X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099481577
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A great writer who spoke brilliantly to a whole generation. Prophet-like' -- Alec Guinness

Book Description

'A great writer who spoke brilliantly to a whole generation. Prophet-like' Alec Guinness --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly prescient 7 Oct 2003
Format:Paperback
Greene's Quiet American is a naive young man who believes in his own inherent goodness and his country's innocence; after all, unlike the French the USA isn't a colonialist power, is it?
So he sets about helping the Vietnamese find a third way between French colonialism and communism. It takes the already jaded Fowler to see that such idealism is not only misplaced, but cannot possibly coexist with the notion that the ends will justify the means.
Writing in the 1950s, as France struggled to hold Indo-China (or leave with dignity) Greene's is a contemporary story. Yet it reads as if the author's already been through the Vietnam War and witnessed the Quiet American's greatest folly.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping and illuminating 6 July 2005
Format:Paperback
This was my first Graham Greene novel, and it won't be my last. It's one of those cleverly constructed 'circular' novels that, after the initial scene, takes you right back to the beginning of the story which slowly unfolds to end with the same initial scene, but seen in a totally different light.
I picked up this novel because I imagined it to be full of the atmosphere of war-torn Vietnam in the 1950s, a historical portrait of the end of colonial Indo-China. And that is indeed one feature of the book, but it is more involving still: realistic characters, consistent only in their complexity, a moving story of a triangular relationship between two men and a woman, a stand-off between the opposing ideologies of cynicism and idealism. I was left wondering: was this a happy ending or not?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but perfectly formed 29 Dec 2007
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
'The Quiet American' is a fairly short, but perfectly formed, novel. Set in the Vietnam war, the narrator is Fowler, a cynical British journalist who forms an unlikely friendship with an idealistic young American called Pyle. Fowler is a good central character, very believable and multi-faceted, and I grew to like him. The supporting characters - from the Vietnamese girl the two men fight over to the boozy American journalist Granger - are also well drawn and realistic.

The writing style is clean and economical, with good use of descriptive touches which paint a much more vivid picture than long winded or flowery prose. Greene is equally good at describing emotions: fear, anguish and tragedy. He manages to address serious political issues without being dull or detracting from the plot, and without offering easy answers.

As someone who knows very little about the Vietnam war and the politics surrounding it, I was at something of a disadvantage and I would recommend a quick reading of the historical background (an encyclopaedia entry would have done) for anyone else with little knowledge of this historical period. At times the early story was a little hard to follow, and that is probably due to my lack of previous knowledge. I think Greene presumes that the reader will have at least some idea of the main issues and factions in the war, so it is worth gaining this in order to better appreciate the story.

The plot is well paced, interesting and plausible. The political debates and emotional turmoils of the characters are perfectly balanced by action and dialogue. The story moves back and forward in time, and this is well handled so that it does not become confusing or annoying.

On the whole, a good read and a book that I think would be enjoyed by most readers.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faultless 30 Sep 2006
Format:Paperback
Along with Waugh's "Decline & Fall" I read this book every year & never fail to get something new from it. Not one word is out of place, not one scene mis-judged. Greene's characters inhabit a world unfamiliar to all 21st century Western wage-slaves; a world of physical danger, intellectual doubts & moral crises. But yet their paranoias & motives render every one of them as believable as ourselves & make their world as real as our own. The hero of this book in particular fills us with the uncomfortable realisation that even despicable acts born of unashamed selfishness can sometimes not only strike a chord within ourselves, but make us favour the perpetrators of such behaviour over other more innocent players. If you find nothing in this book for you stop reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best 20 April 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Greene's best work and the best book ever on Vietnam's twentieth century wars (French and American). Works beautifully as fiction and also as a tour of the area and the era. I have re-read this book ten or twelve times and still find something new to enjoy and appreciate with each re-reading. As an American veteran of the second war (1968-69) I find this a particularly compelling book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The subject line is Greene's description of Alden Pyle. Readers may speculate on the larger, metaphorical dimensions of the book's three principal characters, and impose them on their countries of origin. Pyle is the young, crew-cut American, fresh out of an Ivy League school, over-schooled and undereducated, his head stuffed full of the geo-political notions of the fictional York Harding. Fowler is the cynical, accommodating middle-aged British reporter, just "reporting the facts," not taking sides, until he finally feels he has to. And there is the lovely Ms Phuong, trying to make the best of it in a troubled landscape, a lover to both men, and perhaps a symbol of Vietnam herself.

It was January, 1994, and I was leaving the Hanoi War Museum, one of the first wave of Americans to return. Vietnam was just on the cusp of letting tourists wander the country freely; the War Museum had not been "sanitized" yet (which would happen in only two more years), to remove exhibits that might offend our "sensibilities." And over in the corner was an elderly Vietnamese lady, selling books from a small pile, only two of which were in English, this being one of them. Was it just chance, or did she know that this was the quintessential book about the American involvement in Vietnam, prescient beyond belief, having been written at the very, very beginning, in 1955? I had read it prior to my first, year-long trip there, and decided to purchase another copy.

Today the book is even more relevant, in ways that even Greene did not anticipate. It continues to merit re-reads, I've finished my third. Greene modeled the character of Pyle on the very real life Kermit Roosevelt, who led the CIA's coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, in 1953.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very good read. Pity GG always puts religion in his stories.
Published 1 month ago by Mary Pateman
4.0 out of 5 stars The master of ambivalence
Another classic novel by one of my favourite authors, first read over thirty years ago. There is a risk on re-reading that it doesn't live up to expectations, and perhaps this one... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Phil O'Sofa
5.0 out of 5 stars had to be done in Vietnam
Tour guide in Saigon kept telling us where the book was written, so felt it was worth a read for local colour..
Actually really enjoyed it
Published 2 months ago by bob.maxwell@btinternet.com
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quite American- Greene does it again?
The usual combination of wit and superb prose from the master. Urbane and evocative. Greene captures the mood of the people and the folly of political meddling.
Published 4 months ago by John Harvey
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I had read little of Greene's work before, only having Our Man in Havana. I did, however, enjoy The Quiet American. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars More like it
I struggled through Brighton rock. But had galloped though our man in Havana. This was more fun than either and I suggest you buy it.
Published 5 months ago by F. Valentine
5.0 out of 5 stars QUIETLY STUNNING!!!
This book is quietly stunning. Littered with glimpses and literary visions of beauty and thoughts of powerful effect, this work of written art will move and entertain the reader... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Greggorio!
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read.
Greene transports you back to the Saigon of the 50's and as ever has you transfixed to the very last page.
Published 5 months ago by D.V. GOLDING
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best . . .
This is one of my all-time favourite books from my favourite author. The way the characters develop in such understated writing is a work of art. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sqij
5.0 out of 5 stars just re-read this in Ho Chi Minh City
First read as a teenager, visiting Vietnam prompted me to read again. Just as riveting as the first time, definitely a classic
Published 9 months ago by Anne Banks
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