1994, Books, Non-Fiction

The Life of Graham Greene Volume Two: 1939-55 (1994) by Norman Sherry

Even more than Volume 1, this biography is for fans only.

Again, Sherry does a great job of digging deeper into Graham Greene’s life than just about any biographer digging into any subjects, life, but it’s taken to a bit of absurdity here.

I liked Volume 1 because I felt like it was a traditional, albeit very detailed, biography about how Greene grew up, the things that formed his world view and how he got his early successes – the latter being particular relevant to me as I struggle with recognition for my writing.

But this part covers only 16 years of his life and it spends hundreds of pages focusing on the disintegration of Greene’s marriage and his relationship with his mistress, due to his obsession with a third woman. Yes, this informed two of his books, but we get that rather quickly. We don’t need hundreds of pages about it. And Greene comes off in his letters like a pathetic teenager. It’s frankly amazing to me that Sherry can still defend Greene as much as he does given how many of his letters he’s read, in which Greene whines, begs and pleads with the object of his affection. If you thought highly of this man and want to no longer think highly of him, read this volume.

It takes over 300 pages to get to the good stuff, the stuff where Greene goes to Malaya and Indochina. This part of the book is as excellent as the first volume, but it’s a slog getting there.

I am reading the third volume for only two reasons:

  1. I am a completist and
  2. the affair is pretty much over by the end of this volume, leading me to believe (hope!) that there will be much more about Greene’s travels and writing than his obsession with one particular woman in the third volume.

This is not for the faint of heart, to be sure.


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