'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.