1973 – “The Honorary Counsel” by Graham Greene

I seem to be having a period of Graham Green reading recently. My favourite of his, by a long way, was The Power and The Glory and you can read my review here. If you follow that link then you will also see some other titles of his that I have recently read.

The Honorary Counsel is my book for the 60 books from 60 years reading challenge which is directing my choice of books this year. It’s set in Argentina where there are a very small group of British ex-pats one of whom, Charley Fortnum, is a British Official, unpaid and with little real power. He is kidnapped by a group of rebels by mistake for a more important American official. This causes all sorts of problems because the rebels aren’t sure what to do – some wish to kill him and some to release him. The British government wipes their hands of the matter. Charley’s wife is having an affair with the local British doctor.

The story is mostly told through the eyes of the British doctor Eduardo Plarr whose local father was once a rebel himself and has been kept prisoner ever since Plarr was a child. In order to try and secure his release Plarr gets involved with the rebels. Eventually the kidnapper, the prisoner and the doctor are holed up together trying to work out what to do with no real solution available to them.

Graham Greene is brilliant at creating shabby and disillusioned characters. He has excelled himself here with no one in this book being at all likeable. Fortnum is a chancer, Plarr is an adulterer, the rebels are pitiful and the authorities are without kindness. This book is obviously going to be a tragedy from the very first page but you need to keep reading to see if anyone can redeem themselves and who will come out of the situation alive.

I found this book quite compelling to read. The author’s skill at writing pulled me into the story and kept me gripped even though it was a sordid and shabby situation. I found that the characters were very believable, even if they weren’t particularly nice. So many of this author’s characters in all of his books I have read are failures and under achievers who live inadequate lives.

I don’t think that I would have approached this book had it not been one I chose from my challenge but I am glad that I did.

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