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4.2 out of 5 stars
41
The Ministry Of Fear: An Entertainment (Vintage Classics)
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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 April 2014
This novel has one of the best opening chapters of any novel I have ever read. Arthur Rowe is a repressed and guilt ridden man, living out the war in a London boarding house with little companionship. So, when he comes across a rather sad little wartime fete, he is eager to recall the memories of childhood it evokes. During the fete, a misunderstanding means that he wins a cake. However, the cake was never meant for him and his sudden lucky prize has consequences he could never have anticipated.

This book was published in 1943 and, in it, Graham Greene paints an evocative picture of a war weary population. Arthur Rowe is bombed more than once during the novel and many of the people he comes across have a furtive, nervous air about them. London has been reduced to almost a series of small villages, with people having to consider whether or not they have time to cross the city before the sirens go. However, the blitz is not the only problem Arthur Rowe faces. He finds that he possesses something that the Germans want and they will use any means to acquire it. In fear of his life, Rowe tries to investigate the organisers of the fete and meets Anna Hilfe and her brother Willi; Austrian refugees, who seem to believe his outlandish story.

Although, in essence, this is a story which has been told before – the innocent man who somehow becomes involved in espionage and murder- rarely has it been told as well as this. Despite the danger, Arthur Rowe is a man who gradually begins to engage with the world around him again. This is a disturbing novel in places; a tale of coming to terms with guilt, the weight of memory, of love and loyalty. Although the main character is mild-mannered and bookish, he has a disturbing past and is suddenly motivated to try to find a future. This is not one of Graham Green’s most talked about novels, but it deserves to be. As a novel of wartime, it is fascinating as a portrait of a city which is battered, but certainly not beaten and I am glad that I have discovered it.
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on 3 November 2017
I have read and enjoyed many of Graham greene’s novels and was hoping this would be another treat. Sadly, it wasn’t.
The wartime story feels a little underdone with more atmosphere than substance. It does feel ominous and builds to a good climax but I didn’t get a clear view of the whole story as a convincing entity.
Much of the setting is reminiscent of The End of The Affair but this wasn’t as enjoyable for me.
I haven’t read what others think yet but this felt a bit like an experiment rather than a committed piece of work. Apart from The Power and the Glory, this is the Greene I am least likely to read again.
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on 21 August 2015
Yes, it's the 39 Steps plot, familiar from so many Hitchcock movies. An innocent man is chased by both police and spies. It also has a lot in common with Margery Allingham's Traitor's Purse, especially when an amnesic hero is shocked to find half of London reduced to rubble by war. As usual in Greene, love... no, read it yourself. I'll just add that Graham Greene didn't know how to crochet (see It's a Battlefield).
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on 17 May 2017
Good to find a copy of this . Print rather small .
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on 6 May 2015
A good idea and, as usual, very well executed with some terrific characters but let down a little by the story which is wildly far fetched and, ultimately, a bit of a let down. Try the Heart of the Matter instead, it's a cracker.
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on 9 May 2013
Anyone who knows the unsettling brave new worlds of Huxley and Orwell will wonder why Graham Greene's contribution to the 1940s literary exploration of fascism and mind-surveillance is not better-known.
This is a novel well-balanced between a good read and a fearful prognosis.
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on 9 October 2014
That Graham Greene knows how to write. I thought the ending a bit weak on the theory that in order to sustain their relationship there had to be an unmentionable incident, which both people knew about.
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on 22 March 2017
TYPICAL GREENE - loved it
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on 29 May 2017
great writer great story
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on 26 February 2015
Greene's best book? Maybe not but it's still right up there with The Confidential Agent and The Heart of The Matter
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