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Travels with My Aunt (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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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

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bittersweet Tale of Middle-Age Sept. 21 2001
By A. Ross
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great contrast between the two main characters Sept. 17 2001
By Sabina
This is a wonderful book, and its depth -- which is not apparent at first glance -- comes out when you examine the contrast in personalities between Harry and his aunt.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of home.... Feb. 24 2001
I grew up in Paraguay, where the protagonist of this novel winds up, and Greene does an amusing job of portraying some of the subtleties of living in a dictatorship (like the danger of blowing your nose on the wrong colored handkerchief). It is true that this is not a "great" novel, but if you are fascinated by the journey motif, as I am, it is worth your while to read it.
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'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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5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read with amusing characters. Aug. 6 1999
By A Customer
I found this to be an enjoyable, easily-read novel with great characters. Aunt Augusta is a marvellous character and it's fun to follow the changes her nephew Henry undergoes as he learns to loosen up from her example. Though it's more a book to read for fun than one that will "change your life", it gives pause for thought about living life to its fullest.
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