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4.3 out of 5 stars121
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on 29 November 2014
Brilliantly witty!
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Gleefully combining the raucous humor of absurdity with slyly subtle wordplay and caustic satire, Greene entertains on every level, poking fun at British intelligence-gathering services during the Cold War. Setting the novel in the flamboyant atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Havana, where virtually anything can be had at a price, Greene establishes his contrasts and ironies early, creating a hilarious set piece which satirizes both the British government's never-satisfied desire for secrets about foreign political movements and their belief that the most banal of activities constitute threats to national security.

Expatriate James Wormold is a mild-mannered, marginal businessman and vacuum cleaner salesman, whose spoiled teenage daughter sees herself as part of the equestrian and country club set. Approached by MI6 in a public restroom, Wormold finds himself unwillingly recruited to be "our man in Havana," a role which will reward him handsomely for information and allow him some much-needed financial breathing room.

Encouraged to recruit other agents to provide more information (and earn even more money), he invents characters and features them in fictionalized little dramas which he forwards to his "handlers." Gradually, Wormold becomes a more and more important "spy," his stories become more creative, his "enemies" find him and his "agents" to be dangerous, and some of his "fictional" characters begin to turn up dead.

Skewering British intelligence for being such willing dupes of a vacuum cleaner salesman who never wanted to be an agent in the first place, Greene betrays both his familiarity with the inner workings of the intelligence service, of which he was once a member, and his rejection of Cold War politics. In a conclusion which will satisfy everyone who has ever become impatient with political maneuvering, Greene carries the absurdities of power to their limits, orchestrating a grand finale which shows British politicians at their most venal--and most ridiculous. Ascerbic in its humor and delightfully refreshing in its choice of "hero," this novel is Greene at his very best. Mary Whipple
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on 16 May 2016
a good book
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on 10 May 2015
As expected
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on 7 March 2011
Was Graham Greene perceptive? My guess is that it was fairly evident that the Batista regime would fall and, so, Greene was on fairly safe ground. What might be more of an eye-opener is his 'take' on the British Secret Service; after all, he almost certainly had good knowledge of it's workings. The characterisation in this novel is good as are the topographic descriptions (I wanted to reread sections of Martin Cruz Smith's Havana Bay to compare a few decades apart). However, is it quality? I guess when you have the likes of Christopher Hichens providing the foreword, it must be considered such. To me, it's more like light entertainment.
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on 5 April 2015
Thank you.
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on 21 April 2016
As eected
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on 8 April 2016
All good.
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on 9 February 2016
I love it
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on 3 June 2014
As a Cuban currenlty living in the UK, I found this book interesting and funny, with a bit of suspense. It does give you a glimpse of the live in Havana in the late 50's.
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