The Quiet American

The Quiet American is the story of two man; the narrator, a jaded journalist by the name of Fowler, a naive but well-intentioned, quiet American named Pyle, and the woman they both want, a vietnamese woman by the name of Phuong.

This is not my typical type of book - international politics are not my thing nor do I like a lot of vices in my stories. I don't read gritty books. And to completely honest, I know very little about the Vietnam war and really didn't have a desire to learn more.

And I wasn't sure how I liked it as I read it. I was sometimes confused, mostly with the war parts, and eventually decided to stop worrying about the details and just absorb what I could which is a technique which often works for me and I do think worked here as well.  While I still can't tell you very many details about the political situation, I do feel like I got a good feeling of the asthetic that Greene is trying to convey. One thing that surprised me was that this was written so early on. I actually didn't realized it would work for the challenge until later because until I was over half way through the book did I realize it was written so early on (1955 - the very beginning of the war). I had assumed it was written with the author having the ability to look back on the war which was not the case. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I did find in interesting.

 Another strong feeling beyond confused was frustration. I was frustrated by both the main men in the story and by the lack of depth we see in Phuong. Yet, I'm pretty sure I was frustrated by exactly the things Greene wanted me to be frustrated by. It's definitely well written and thought provoking. The way the story plays out in such a non-linear way, with information being given in a roundabout fashion, really forces you to sort things out in your head and the result is beautiful writing about an ugly topic.

 Even now over a month after I've finished it, I find myself pondering certain elements. Mostly about what it means to be a good man.  Does one right decision redeem a character? Does one wrong decision ruin one?

I will be putting more Graham Greene work's in my to-be-read pile when I'm up for a bit of a challenge and needing to step out of my usual genres. And while I won't becoming an expert in Vietnam War history any time soon, I would love to find another book selection that explores this topic from more of an insiders perspective.

The Quiet American is my Back to the Classic Challenge - Classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania selection. 

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