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Penguin Classics Travels With My Aunt Paperback – 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039006
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 1.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,004,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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First Sentence
I MET my Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than half a century at my mother's funeral. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
'Travels' is not a great novel, not even a great Graham Greene novel. It is flawed, mannered, contrived, old-fashioned, complacent; the work of a writer who has earned his laurels and is content to lounge on them. The frequent allusions to then-modish Latin American fiction (the novel ends up in Paraguay) only exposes its lack of adventurousness. Sometimes you wonder whether the maddening primness is the narrator's or the author's. Too often, Greene resorts to caricature rather than character, and even the splendid figure of Aunt Augusta feels like a writerly short-cut.
'Travels' is one of the most purely pleasurable books I have ever read, largely due to the perfectly captured narrative voice, a middle-aged virgin, retired bank manager and dahlia expert unwittingly thrown into a world of smuggling, soft drugs, hippies, war criminals, CIA operatives, military dictatorships, and whose decent, limited tolerance keeps the fantastic narrative believable, but also blinds him to genuine horrors.
The book contains some of Greene's funniest writing; if he'd written it 30 years earlier he's have called it an 'entertainment', those more generic or populist works that weren't overtly concerned with great moral themes. Today, these entertainments seem to have dated better than the 'serious' books.
Of course, 30 years on and Greene can relax his style - the plot is less vice-like, the words don't imprison - rather, they eloquently express a developing consciousness and sensibility. This is a story that proliferates with stories, some comic, some tragic, some parable-lie, all leading inexorably towards one untold story. Like all Greene's novels, 'Travels' concerns modern man's search for home, and the ending is devastating, mixing imagistic beauty with characteristically flat cynicism.
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Format: Paperback
Finally, a Graham Greene book I sort of liked (following disappointing experiences with Stamboul Train and This Gun For Hire)! That said, it's not great stuff, but it's at least fairly entertaining, diverting, and sad. The tale is of Henry, a middle-aged bachelor (and presumably virgin) who has been forced to retire from his bank job after 30 years. He's a total zero, dull and timid, with nothing to look forward to but 30 years of watering his dahlias. At his mother's funeral he meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time since his baptism, and she immediately rocks his world by announcing that his mother was in fact not this biological mother. She then proceeds to disrupt his empty life by insisting on his accompaniment for a various trips, notably a ride on the Orient Express to Istanbul, and a furtive trip to Paraguay. She's old, but with way more zest than her nephew, and their interplay is a clear call for everyone to live life and not let it drift by (carpe diem and all that). Of course, her interpretation of this involves smuggling a gold ingot, running around with a young Sierra Leonian pot merchant, and tracking down her Italian war criminal lover-all while spinning tales of her life and loves. Of course, it's obvious to everyone except Henry that his "aunt" is his real mother, but that the one story which goes untold. In the end, it's hard not to feel sad for the pitiful Henry, whose passive approach to life is characterized as being a product of his upbringing.
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By A Customer on June 5 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book but I found it disturbing in the same way that I find Nabokov's "Lolita" disturbing. Greene divided the chapters into two parts and they are very different in tone. The first is a light narrative of Henry's travels with his picaresque Aunt Augusta, who has many associations with people outside of the law. The second part of the book starts with an encounter by Henry and Augusta with a woman who has shown a long-time devotion to the memory of Henry's dead father.
Augusta's antipathy to this woman sets the dark mood that underlies the remainder of the book. Augusta's unsentimental amoralism is no longer so amusing. Henry's involvement in this world is like Alice trying to establish residency in Wonderland. Henry remarks about how much he has changed and yet in some ways he has not changed at all. He moves from passively drifting in one world to doing the same in another. He is incapable of love or attachment and our sympathy toward him makes us question our own values.
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Format: Paperback
If your idea of a good novel is something that takes you where you've never been before and leaves you wanting more, consider this one. An English gentleman is forcibly retired from a job as bank branch manager and is looking forward to a quiet end of his life, when into his life bounces his elderly aunt, a world-traveler and bon-vivant. She proceeds to shake up his staid existence, and to make it abundantly clear that he ought either to join her in her reckless and dangerous travels or continue to roll downhill to a certain, but dull end. Lucky for us readers he chooses the former, though not without grave misgivings. The message here is to all of us middle-agers: Do you really want to stop living? A tempting, juicy tale, and Graham Greene is outstandingly good in the telling, at his best, really. The characters we meet along the way are unforgettable. So sink down in your easy chair and relish this breath of fresh air from a master of the form.
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