Book Review: The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene

The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene - Header

When it comes to reading I currently feel a little bit like a sponge, I am just soaking up everything and anything without care or thought. I just want to read. And any source, any recommendation gets thrown onto the wish list for potential future offerings. So, while reading Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive he made numerous mentions to The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene, and so without investigation or sample, I sat down to read it.

Now I am not religious, I have no problem with anyone who is, but for me I like to understand why and believe that there is an answer for everything. Which instantly put me at odds with a book that is essentially born in religion. I just don’t think that I was ever a candidate to become engrossed in the story. Although, I will admit that while I there are large parts that are slow and monotonous, with a seemingly never ending repetition of a single series of events, I didn’t dislike the book or it’s ideas. I just didn’t find it interesting.

Jesus In The Desert - The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene

I think one of the problems was that I never really felt comfortable with exactly what the book was meant to be or trying to achieve. I kept feeling that I was actually being told to a loose retelling of the story of Jesus. But because I wasn’t sure if that was me seeing similarities that weren’t really there, or actually what I was meant to find, I never quite trusted it. The longer it went on, the more convinced I was becoming that it is nothing more than a facsimile of Christ and, however right or wrong I may be, the ending almost confirmed this to me.

I’ve never read anything by Graham Greene before, and was slightly concerned when my Father wished me luck declaring he’d “be surprised if I finished it” while my Mother simply stated “Greene was hard work”. And I can understand why. I’m sure it’s just a case of times and language moving on, but the grammar and the sentence construction just felt old and broken. There were large portions of the book where I’d have to reread sections because in my head the order of the words seemed to be either missing or muddled compared what I would expect. Language and construction just not seeming to flow naturally.

My other issue with Greene’s writing is the way that on occasions he would disappear off on a tangent mid sentence and then return back to this opening point without pausing for breath. He’d usually accomplish this through the use of hyphens – which is OK – but because his tangents were often extended side thoughts I’d forgotten the opening point he made by  the time he finally returned to it.

Graham Green Writing - The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene

Whilst I had these issues with the way it’s written, I still found the description, the mental picture it created, completely clear. I saw the streets, the characters, the world they inhabited clearly. I’d even go as far as to say that I felt the emotions shown and the thoughts on life they project. Even though it never gets truly under your skin, because it’s not really trying being more reflective than aggressive, you still feel a connection to the characters but it’s more a sense of their pain and suffering at the events that happen around them rather than their moral musings on life.

I do have one issue though and that is the timing of the book from a narrative point of view. The book is set in Mexico, and the picture I painted in my head is comparable to that of the American Midwest during the Frontier of the 17th Century. Everything dusty, hot, disconnected and simple. I created this setting because that’s how I found Greene describing it. And yet suddenly he’d mention a character’s relationship to The Great War, and/or trench warfare, and suddenly my head would be confused by the paradox of a world seemingly lost in time compared to it’s characters.

American Frontier - The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene

I’m sure there are people jumping up and down screaming how I’ve missed the fundamental ideas, the themes, tones and life lessons that make The Power And The Glory such a renowned work. I can only tell you what I thought, what I found and how it made me feel and think as I read. However, right or wrong. Having now read a wide range of books, of different genres, ages and styles, it’s becoming obvious that older, more derelict writing styles cause me problems no matter how good the novel, author or story may be and I think that Grahame Greene and The Power And The Glory suffer slightly from that. I still don’t trust exactly what the story is pretending to be, but it certainly isn’t as hard work or as difficult as my parent’s implied, I’ve finished it after all, I just don’t see quite why Matt Haig adores it so much either.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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