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Flashes of brilliance in a story that does not completely gel
on 12 February 2013
As the earliest of Greene's great successes, 'Stamboul Train' definitely shows up some of the themes and some of the excellence for which the author became known - but in a slightly less polished version.
The book - covering an Orient Express journey from Ostende to Istanbul - and several characters including convicted revolutionaries, murderers, aspiring theatre dancers, businessmen, Cook travellers, lesbian journalists, etc. All of their stories intermingle between Cologne, Vienna, Subotica and Istanbul and while most of the characters are finely drawn, there are some shortcommings.
The author did not manage the same quality of research as in his later books, with the odd foreign language error, odd names for some of the non-British characters, false currency names, etc. The character of Dr. Czinner also lacks the clarity given to revolutionaries of the time in something like Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon.
While most of the loose ends are tied up rather neatly in the end, the book may still upset people used to clear endings but is otherwise not problematic in my opinion.
In spite of the mentioned points it is a well written, interesting character portrayal and a testament to a time of transition in Europe. If you are a Graham Greene fan, a must read in my opinion.