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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hanging on the telephone
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...
Published on 4 July 2003 by blackeyedsoosan

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3.0 out of 5 stars Old Fashioned Novel about Spies
I enjoyed reading this novel which has many good touches and some fine humorous points. It is rather old fashioned being about cold war warriors. John Le Carre does this sort of book well, but without the light touch that Greene brings to it. It is also good that Greene also focuses on Africa. Although ostensibly set in the 1970's , it is really set in the Forties or...
Published 18 months ago by Rf And Tm Walters


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent audiobook, 8 Jan 2004
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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Mr Tim Pigott-Smith’s performance as a reader of Graham Greene’s “The Human Factor” in this audiobook is truly stunning. His voice is very pleasant and his vivid reading adds a further dimension to this already excellent novel.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greene at his best, 8 Jan 2004
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Maurice Castle is working for the Secret Service. In this bizarre profession, he has to deal with leaks, security checks, tensions and suspicions. As Maurice approaches retirement, he realises that some of the decisions he made in the past are now having very serious consequences. In this beautiful novel, the reader discovers what the life of a secret agent is like: he is lonely, isolated and becomes almost neurotic. Greene lays bare a machine, the Secret Service, which overlooks Maurice’s subtle and secret motivations that impel him. The characters are beautiful, full of tenderness, excitement and doubt.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 30 Sep 2011
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Being a fan of espionage and of Graham Greene, it seems that this book was made for me.
The story has all the elements necessary to interesting: secrets, lies, human corruption and true love.
Castle is a spy who worked and fell in love in South Africa. To protect the women he loved he did what was necessary; later the consequences of his acts will reach him.
This story, like the title says, tells about the human side of espionage. Not even the most perfect organization is protect from human emotions.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Read, 27 Jun 2011
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Judy Otter (Bishop Auckland, England United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Paperback)
First Graham Greene novel I've read and found it engaging from the start.Takes you back to the 1970's and the political/spy scene then. Racial attitudes/issues, family dynamics/work issues/international politics. I read a short big of G Greene first and can see where a lot of the themes have links with his own life. Really enjoyed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 11 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
arrived on time and author writes good stories
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 11 Dec 2014
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A little dated but an excellent read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 12 Dec 2014
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
good quality and on time
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The only Graham Greene that I don't like, 6 April 2013
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B. Bampton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
I discovered Greene in 1971, read his books voraciously and number some of them amongst my all time favourite books. By the time this was published in 1978 I must have read at least 25 of his books. I knew he was an old man and I was starting to wonder what I would do for reading material when he passed away. So I read this as soon as it came out.
And I hated it.
There's something smug about it. I can't put my finger on it. The Greeneland feel is there and as usual the characters are comfortable middle class people but it drags. There is a really unpleasant scene where a man shoots his dog and makes a hash out of it and leaves it to die in agony which I just didn't feel was necessary. There are other ways of portraying cowardice or incompetence. Perhaps it's just that Greene didn't know much about the Cold War.
The one thing I remember with a smile is that the hero is advised to take two pounds of Maltesers as a gift for his hostess. (He doesn't know whether that should be £s or lbs.) Anyway, he takes a shed load of Maltesers and his hostess puts them out in silver dishes for cocktail hour. Neat, huh?
His previous book, The Honorary Consul, is much better although less well known. His next book, Dr Fischer of Geneva and the Bomb Party is also very good.
I said I hated it and I did but I can't bring myself to give Graham Greene 1 star when his books gave me so much enjoyment so hence the 2 stars.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Late Work, But Not Too Shabby, 2 Jun 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
"The Human Factor" was authored Graham Greene (1904-1991), who was one of the more illustrious British writers of the 20th century, enjoyed a very long life, and a long, prolific writing career, during which he gave us The Power and the Glory; The Third Man;The End of the Affair; and Our Man in Havana, among many other well-known masterworks, most of which were made into notable films. ( The Third Man [DVD] [1949];The End of the Affair [DVD]; Our Man In Havana [DVD]).

The author, in fact, bookended the life, and writing career, of another very-well known British author of spy novels, Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, 007. Furthermore, Greene was still at work -- he published up until almost his death-- when John LeCarre, another well-known British writer of spy stories, whom he heavily influenced, was hitting his late-middle writing years. However, the LeCarre-Greene relationship might best be considered a two-way street, as "The Human Factor," the Graham Greene book at hand, has a plot that strongly resembles those by LeCarre; and characters that aren't so different from those of the younger man, either. Be that as it may, Greene's books were very well-written, highly literate; much praised by the critics, and enjoyed a wide readership.

When Greene's rather late-career "The Human Factor" was published in 1978, it spent six months on "The New York Times" Best Seller List. This was remarkable only insofar as Greene apparently didn't much care for it, called it "a dead albatross round his neck," and threatened "to leave it in his drawer," as the writers' phrase for holding a book back from publication goes. Nevertheless, he sent a copy of the manuscript to notorious British counterspy/defector Kim Philby in Moscow: they'd been friends since Oxford days. Greene always denied that Maurice Castle, counterspy/protagonist of this novel, was based on Philby; their career arcs, however, echoed each other. (By the way, the real-life mole Philby blew the covers of many British agents secreted in the Communist bloc. John LeCarre, under his real name, David Cornwell, among them.)

Greene himself had first-hand spy experience. He'd been recruited to Britain's World War II Secret Service, MI5, upon Philby's recommendation, to serve in the African country of Sierra Leone. And he has set this novel in the lonely, dangerous world of the spy. "The Firm," as Greene called the Secret Service, with "C" as its Control, employs near-retirement Castle, after an undistinguished career, in the small, unimportant African bureau. Castle's brash younger colleague, Davis, is itching to get out from behind the desk, and hopes to go to Sierra Leone. Agency administrators become convinced that there's a leak in the small bureau, and Davis pays for it. But the agency fails to recognize the human factor. Castle appears settled, middle-aged, suburban. Still, he's married to a black South African woman he'd smuggled out of that country, stepfather to her black son, and has reasons to hate that juggernaut, particularly when the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States make it secret commitments.

This book was evidently quite personal to Greene. Aside from the Sierra Leone echo, he portrays Castle as living quite happily in suburban Berkhamsted, his own home town. Greene was a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, England's famous, ancient university. He was one of the better-known Catholic converts of his time; many of his books deal with Catholic themes of guilt and redemption. He wrote a tight thriller, in a lean, realistic style, that boasted almost cinematic visuals. His spycraft was accurate, his plots sufficed. He created characters with internal lives; they faced struggles, and sometimes they despaired, or suffered world-weary cynicism, but often they prevailed. He always treated them with insight and compassion. Critics have pegged "The Human Factor" as one of Greene's late, lesser works. If he interests you, you might want to start with one of his earlier, better-known books, but this one isn't too shabby.
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The Human Factor (Vintage Classics)
The Human Factor (Vintage Classics) by Graham Greene (Paperback - 2 Sep 1999)
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