home_forarest (home_forarest) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

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Book #62 for 2012

Stamboul Train by Graham Greene, 1932, 221 pages.

Graham Greene is one of my favourite authors and has been since I was in my late teens many decades ago. However, he occasionally wrote books that were heavily political and dealt with war, and my brain stops reading as soon as politics and war enter the picture.

This novel, penned when my parents were babies, features the people and incidents aboard The Orient Express, running from Paris to Istanbul one wintery week. It features an impoverished showgirl, a rich Jewish merchant, a self-obsessed novelist, a reporter and her paid companion, in fact, all the possible conventional characters in the artificial setting of a train journey, in which for a time, normal life is suspended and anything can happen.

I didn't like the people aboard, and yet for all that, Greene made them so vivid and visual that I will never forget them; I didn't like the atmosphere, yet was drawn into it utterly. Greene is a master of prose and I am unlikely to find anyone who has such skill with words as he. However, when problems began erupting in the Balkans, involving a doctor on the train and a subplot began that I couldn't follow because I turn my brain off when politics start happening, the whole tenor of the book changed for me and I found that I was reading some of the story and skipping other bits entirely. I'm still unsure how one of the characters met his end but don't feel like wading through political stuff to figure it out.

I have four more Graham Greene novels sitting on the shelf and will dive eagerly into all of them. When he delights, he does it better than any writer could, and even when he fails to astonish, he is still a cut above most writers ever to be in print.

cross-posted to my journal
Tags: fiction

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