19 January 2014

The Human Factor by Graham Greene

When Simon Savidge's book-loving Gran passed last year, many of her fans joined in Simon's month-long Greene for Gran tribute. I had previously read three Greene novels (Our Man In Havana, The Heart of the Matter, and Travels With My Aunt and they all ended up getting really high ratings--8, 9, and 9 respectively) but it had been a while since I had read any of his work. In fact, if it wasn't for Simon's tribute to his Gran's favorite author, I'm not sure when, or if, I would have gotten back to him.

For Greene for Gran I picked up The End of the Affair and thought it was absolutely amazing in so many ways. It ended up getting a 10 on my 10-point scale. I enjoyed it so much that I picked up quite a number of Greene novels that I came across at various used book sales since then. (Thankfully Greene's work is quite easily available here in the U.S.) One of those books I picked up was The Human Factor which turned out to be a smart, somewhat sad, page-turner of a spy novel and it easily ranks a 9 on my scale.

Maurice Castle who works for the British Secret Service during spent years working for the service in Apartheid South Africa where we met and married one of his informants, a Bantu woman named Sarah. Since his affair with her broke the race laws in South Africa, Castle and Sarah flee the country one step ahead of he South African police. Seven years later Maurice is working for 'the Firm' but now at a desk job in London when a possible security leak is discovered in his division.

About halfway through the narrative, what I thought was a whodunit turned into a whydunit and a how will it enddunit. Throughout my read I found myself wanting to turn off the TV and computer and get back to the action, but when it got to the whydunit phase I become slightly more obsessed. I ended up staying up until 2:00 am to finish it. Without going back and looking at my list of books read, I can't remember the last time I found a book that compelling.

In the world of thriller/mystery type books, of which I read very, very few, I definitely lean toward the cerebral as opposed to the action filled or violent and I definitely like one with a good spy angle. But Graham Greene's writing and emotional depth transcends any attempt to plug this book into a genre. And I think his range as an author also keeps him out of any genre even though much of his work is set in a similar spyish milieu. At least that's how it looks to me having read only five of his 26 novels.

I'm so glad Granny Savidge's favorite author was Graham Greene because now he is one of mine as well.


  1. Wow, this sounds great. I've only read one book by Greene, Travels With My Aunt, which I loved, but I suspect it's quite different. Will have to read some GG as soon as the Triple Dog Dare is over!

  2. I consider Graham Greene to be one of my favorite authors yet there are so many books of his I have yet to read. If this kept you reading until 2:00 AM, it must be good. I will try and make this one my next GG read.

  3. Karen: I really liked Travels With My Aunt, but you are right, it is quite different.

    Ruth: I am quite excited to realize that he is one of my favorites. I think I had liked the three previous ones, but for whatever reason he didn't swirl in my head as a favorite. Now with these recent two, it is like a revelation.

  4. Our Man in Havana is a favorite of mine. Have you read The Power and the Glory, yet. I think I have the title right. That's one that stayed with me.

    It's been a while since I read Greene. I may have one in my TBR case...

    BTW I'm at a new blog now: Jamesreadsbooks.com. Something went wonky at Ready When You Are, C.B. and Blogger stopped sending out new posts so the site basically vanished as far as my readers know. I've decided to start over under my real name.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.