three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
user_rating: 
0

Volume III, 1955-1991

A-LifeGrahamGreeneWith Volume III of The Life of Graham Greene, Sherry draws the curtain on his impressive biography of one of the 20th-century’s most prolific and esteemed British writers. This volume chronicles Greene (still a British agent and a celebrity writer at this point) from pre-revolutionary Cuba and colonial Belgian Congo to Capri and Antibes. Although Greene had reached the height of his literary fame, cavorting with the likes of Evelyn Waugh and T.S. Eliot, he had sunk to rock bottom in her personal life. Beset by his depression and thoughts of suicide, questions over Catholicism and his craft consumed him. Yet these experiences, like the others Sherry details in Volumes I and II, provided the inspiration for Greene’s literary works.
Viking. 906 pages. $39.95. ISBN: 0670031429

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Dr. Sherry … has produced a splendid analysis of the literary genius whose adventurous life paralleled history and was mirrored in his fiction. … About this ambiguous, complex writer, Dr. Sherry writes with insight, erudition and humane objectivity—capturing the conscience that made an indelible mark on modern literature. The professor maxes the course." Malinda Nash

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"For anyone interested in Graham Greene’s life and work, this three-volume biography is incomparable. … [A]s a literary journey, as well as a journey across the world, it is masterly." Paul Theroux

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[Sherry’s] lengthy interviews with the subject’s family, friends and the novelist himself illuminate the facts. In some cases, Sherry replicated Greene’s famously varied travels. … [A] masterful biography." Adam Woog

South Florida Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"For those enthralled both by Greene’s absorbing narratives and their exquisite artistry, Sherry’s authorized biography will be the standard account of Greene for the foreseeable future." Steven E. Alford

Newsday 3 of 5 Stars
"Sherry’s obsessive thoroughness is both a virtue and a vice. Sherry is exhaustive, but his third volume is also exhausting, if not exasperating, coming in at a wrist-breaking 900-plus pages. It can be tedious going." Matthew Price

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Sherry … has certainly done his homework. But he writes like a dutiful literary executor who is far too polite to meet the complexities of his subject." George Sim Johnston

Boston Globe 2.5 of 5 Stars
"His accounts of the British General Strike, the Malayan Emergency, the war in French Indochina, and Franois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier’s reign of terror in Haiti are exemplary. … How can a literalist biographer, who makes extravagant claims to be led by the facts, fail to relate his first meeting with Greene consistently? Sherry would have written a better book, and perhaps a more intelligent one, if he had taken the trouble to reflect on such matters." Andrew Biswell

Critical Summary

With this volume Sherry, a professor of literature at Trinity University in San Antonio, completes his biography of prolific British writer Graham Greene (The Quiet American, The Third Man, and The End of the Affair, and more than 30 other novels). Sherry relied on all of Greene’s papers, drew on their personal friendship, and even travelled in his footsteps—and his perseverance in uncovering all facets of Greene’s life shows. Sherry’s especially adept at placing Greene within the larger politico-historical context. But critics fault the biography for its breadth, length, and factual inconsistencies. Despite these drawbacks, Graham Greene is sure to be the definitive biography—if you can get through a few thousand pages.

Supplemental Reading

The Heart of the Matter | Graham Greene (1940): Recommending any one Greene novel is difficult … consider also The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, Our Man in Havana. Heart was #40 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century and tells of an honest police officer in wartime West Africa who falls in love and succumbs to betrayal.