Our Man in Havana
By: Graham Greene
Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Satire- Fiction Readers
Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study it tells of MI6’s man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.
What a fantastic read! The main character, Mr. Wormold, is a British citizen living in Cuba in the 1960’s. His wife has left him and so he is alone in raising a young daughter who is incredibly spoiled and spends her father’s money without knowing whether he has it or not. As a vacuum cleaner salesman, he really does not.
As a character, Wormold is great because he evokes a sense of pity even though you know his indifference makes him rather pathetic and you can’t help but understand why his clever wife left him. Milly is Wormold’s young daughter who is so innocent, you allow her to be irresponsible with her father’s money and heart. Greene does a fabulous job of creating supporting characters that have glaringly obvious flaws, but the reader loves them regardless.
The plot is also creative and comedic. Because Wodmold’s daughter uses his money with no regard, he is in a tight financial position when he is cornered in the men’s room by a man named Hawthorne. Hawthorne is a British spy and convinces Wormold to keep important tabs on the going-ons of Havana and send reports to Britain. Of course, Wormold is not only compensated for his work, but he is compensated for a team of additional spies who will help him. Wormold is not interested in playing spy, but being interested in the money, he creates a team of spies that work for him and conjures up dangerous missions that they take on. All is fine until, of course, Britain sends in some extra help and the spies that Wormold has created begin to show up dead in reality. From there, reality and fiction spiral out of control as Wormold tries to hang onto the illusion of his spy life while figuring out how his fantasy has turned into non-fiction.
The writing is wonderful, and Greene is not only great at creating unique characters and story lines, but he also infuses a lot of wit into the character’s dialogues. The result is a charming book with a subtle dark lesson: don’t take the easy way out!
I suggest this book to anyone who is looking for something that is entertaining and light.