The Life of Graham Greene, 1939-1955
Although this second volume of Norman Sherry’s authorized biography of Graham Greene covers only sixteen years, they were among the most storied in a long and eventful life. Greene produced several of his greatest novels in these years, including THE POWER AND THE GLORY (1940) and THE HEART OF THE MATTER (1948), and collaborated on the immensely successful film versions of his fiction, most notably THE THIRD MAN (1950). Yet despite these accomplishments, Greene was privately tormented by guilt, depression, and a morbid fixation on death.
This period saw the gradual deterioration of his marriage to Vivien Dayrell-Browning and his extramarital affairs with two other women. Separated from Vivien during World War II, Greene began an eight-year liaison with Dorothy Glover. Before that relationship wound down, and while still married to Vivien, he conceived a grand passion for Catherine Walston, a young, beautiful, and rich American married to a British peer, with five small children. Their tempestuous affair would last more than a decade, a situation greatly complicated by their both being Catholics.
Like his relationships with women, Greene’s involvement in espionage was an important source for his writing. As an agent in the Secret Intelligence Service during the war, he served for nearly two years in West Africa. His supervisor was Kim Philby, later to be revealed as a high-ranking Soviet double agent. Sherry speculates that Greene may have exploited his tie to Philby and passed on secret information to MI6 long after his official resignation from the service.
Because of its meticulous research, its objectivity, and its care to include all the many sides of a complex and secretive personality, Sherry’s portrait of Greene is likely to remain definitive.
Sources for Further Study
The Economist. CCCXXXII, September 10, 1994, p. 107.
London Review of Books. XVI, July 20, 1995, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 19, 1995, p. 4.
National Review. XLVII, February 6, 1995, p. 67.
The New Republic. CCXIII, December 11, 1995, p. 30.
New Statesman and Society. VII, September 9, 1994, p. 36.
The New York Review of Books. XLII, June 22, 1995, p. 25.
The New York Times Book Review. C, February 26, 1995, p. 9.
The Observer. November 20, 1994, p. 2.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, December 5, 1994, p. 62.
The Spectator. CCLXXIII, September 3, 1994, p. 33.
The Times Literary Supplement. September 30, 1994, p. 3.
The Washington Post Book World. XXV, February 12, 1995, p. 4.