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Our Man in Havana Paperback – 1 Aug 1969

4.3 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Aug 1969
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New impression edition (Aug. 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140017909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140017908
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 1.3 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 748,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Graham Greene's new "Entertainment" offers only a questionable diversion this time, substitutes a lightminded travesty of secret service operations (the intentions are not too clearly decipherable) for the surer suspense of the earlier books in this genre. Wormold, a vacuum cleaner representative in Havana, a middle-aged man whose daughter is his prime security interest, is tapped as secret agent number 59200 stroke five by the British Secret Service. With "no accomplice except the credulity of other men", Wormold turns in bogus reports and fabulous diagrams (vacuum cleaner parts), recruits an extensive payroll of imaginary sub-agents, and rigs an elaborate deception which backfires when one of his men materializes- only to be killed, his friend Hasselbacher is a second victim, and he is a potential third... For all the occasional overtones and undercuts, this is no more than a genial form of nonsense in which Greene is not at his best. This still may be good enough for a great many people to whom the name assumes more than is this time assured. (Kirkus Reviews)

Book Description

'No serious writer of this century has more thoroughly invaded and shaped the public imagination than did Graham Greene' Time --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gleefully combining the raucous humor of absurdity with slyly subtle wordplay and caustic satire, Greene entertains on every level, skewering 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.
Ex-patriot 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 chooses names at random from the country club membership list and fabricates personas for them, featuring them in fictionalized little dramas which he churns out and forwards to his "handlers." Always careful to fulfill their expectations exactly, Wormold becomes a more and more important "spy," his stories become more creative, his "enemies" find him and his "agents" to be dangerous, and his friends and the real people whose names were used as fictional agents begin to turn up dead.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great cold war "spy" book. I loved it. Written over 50 years ago it is still funny and just so well written. I was expecting a light spy spoof, but this book is just so much more. At just over 200 pages it shows that good writers dont need 800+ pages to develop characters or tension. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
If it were not for his spendthrift daughter, Wormold may have bumbled along in Cuba until the rise of Castro would have forced his emigration back to his native soil, but his country and his offspring unknowingly conspired together to thwart such an uneventful end to Wormold's sojourn in Havana. Thoughts he might have had of whiling away the years with his drinking pal Dr. Hasselbacher, indulging the shopaholic Milly, playing checkers and selling his vacuum cleaners were soon to be put to flight. Hawthorne from MI6 made him an offer he couldn't refuse. If its reports they want, and are willing to pay for them, reports they shall have. Wormold takes to writing fiction like a duck to water and applies his skills to his new employment.

The sinister machinations of Captain Segura and the refreshing Beatrice add to the above to create a story well worth reading.
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By A Customer on 9 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
A marvellous story about a vacuum cleaner salesman caught up in the world of espionage, purely to buy his daughter a pony for her birthday. The characters are so real that you feel that you know them personally, and the style of writing employed by Graham Greene is an example of what can be done with the English language in the hands of a truly great writer. The chapter in which the British secret service peruse the sketches sent from Havana by Wormold is one of the funniest I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
Our Man in Havana takes place in the late fifties, during the Cold War. It tells the story of Wormold, an English, divorced vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba.
Sales are not very good these days, and when his 17-year-old daughter's latest caprice turns out to be a horse, he knows he can't afford it. That's when he's accosted in the toilets of a local bar by Hawthorne, a cryptic man with an interesting offer: 300$ a month, to become a secret agent. All he has to do is recruit sub-agents and send regular reports to London.
Wormold uses the money to buy presents for his daughter, sending fake reports and sketches of an imaginary war machine from vacuum cleaner designs. Very pleased with his work, the MI6 decide to send him a secretary...
This was my first encounter with Graham Greene's work. I read this book as a background preparation for the Cambridge Proficiency exam, and even though it's not a genre I am used to (I usually read fantasy), I must say I enjoyed it thoroughly. The story is timeless and could as well have happened nowadays, it's funny and sarcastic, and the characters are extremely human. A great experience!
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Format: Paperback
I found it very interesting reading, on my rather old battered copy of this book, that Graham Greene himself rated `Our Man in Havana' as not a novel but as an entertainment. Having now read it I can see what he means I think. A novel is a novel but this isn't the kind of book that you might expect from Graham Green because its not exactly literary even thought it's actually very well written. In fact you would almost think that `Our Man in Havana' was a pastiche of a James Bond novel whilst also being a comedy of errors in some ways. Hmmm, hard one to describe, maybe a little sharing of the story will help.

`Our Man in Havana' is of course set in Cuba under the regime of Batista and our protagonist Wormold, who's wife has left him alone with his daughter who is rather high maintenance in more ways than one, is selling vacuum cleaners for a living with the odd drink or five with his friend Dr Hasselbacher. This all changes however when he meets Hawthorne, a man from British Intelligence who is looking for a new agent and who decides that Wormold is the perfect man for the job. However Wormold isn't the perfect man or agent for the job, though he thinks the money is brilliant and to keep it coming starts making up agents, their storylines and tales of espionage in the depths of Cuba. Things start to get a little more complicated for Wormold, and all the more entertaining for the reader, as the things he makes up start to actually happen.

I did enjoy this book as a read, it didn't blow me away liked I hoped it would. I liked the idea of your average man becoming a hopeless spy, yet really all we had was Wormold telling lies and creating mild deceptions for his own gains which kind of put me off him. I know that shouldn't matter but it did a bit.
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