Quiet American

Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. New York: Viking Press, 1956.

This has come up twice for my December readings – once because of Ward Just’s birthday (don’t ask), and once because it is a companion read to Ward Just, again don’t ask. I’ll explain all that when I get to Ward Just’s book later this month week.

Like my friend who started decorating for Christmas, I started reading my December picks on 11/23/08. I couldn’t help myself. I had wanted to fit in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling but my library’s version was not the complete works. In addition it was missing the two crucial stories Nancy Pearl specifically pointed out. Rather than disrupt the flow of order I moved onto December…a week early!

This was a story of two battles. An English reporter is sent to cover a war-torn Saigon. While there he falls in love with Vietnamese woman. His love is challenged when an American from Boston falls in love with the same woman. There is a real war raging on the periphery, complete with bombings and mass murders, while at the center is a battle over a woman. The interesting twist to this story is how the story makes the reader feel towards the two men and how that changes over time.

Best lines: “I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup; the was a certain hour of the night and the promise of rest” (p 5). That is such an achingly beautiful line!
“You cannot love without intuition” (p 13).
“The possession of a body tonight seemed a very small thing – perhaps that day I had seen too many bodies which belonged to no one, not even to themselves” (p 65-66).
“For a moment I had felt elation as on the instant of waking before one remembers” (p 205).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in two different places: in the chapter “Companion Reads” (p 64), and “Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 135).

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