Sunday, 28 June 2015

JUNE READ: THE POWER AND THE GLORY|| Graham Greene




I have always read a lot, as children my Mum used to have to hide our books when it got close to dinner time, otherwise my younger sister and I wouldn't hear them calling for dinner, or calling for help setting the table. Our house is lined with bookshelves, and books that overflow the shelves and are now precariously stacked along windowsills and along the floor.

Unfortunately whilst studying for my history degree at the University of York, I have little time to read anything other than academic books, and when I do have some leisure time, the thought of reading another chapter is not so welcome. That having been said, now that the summer has arrived, and I am off for a whooping three months, I am back on the reading band wagon. That is why I have decided to do a monthly book post, featuring a book I have recently read and would recommend to you, my lovely readers. Hopefully I read enough books over the summer to tide over this mini series till my next holiday break at Christmas, but we'll see how it goes.

The first book I would like to feature is a classic from someone who is often considered one of the great English writers, Graham Greene, author of books such as Brighton Rock and Travels with My Aunt. The book that I am featuring however, is The Power and the Glory, a book that is often considered Greene's literary masterpiece.

Written about the anti-Catholicism and secularisation of Mexico, the books central character is a priest, or "whisky priest" on the run, and one of the only known priest left in Mexico. Split into parts and then into chapters, the novel has a disjointed yet decidedly fluid structure. With the first few chapters opening around, not the main character, but those who he directly or indirectly interacts with, such as Mr Trench, the Police, and Captain Fellows. Greene artfully sets the scene, and gives the reader a true feeling of what it was like in 1930s/1940s Mexico, not only for Mexican peasants, but those in authority, and those who had known a different life, such as the English dentist Mr Trench.

Greene's characters are full of life, and although all vastly different people, their lives intertwine and overlap each other in this oppressed and struggling country. There is the struggling English dentist, forgetful and dreaming of his home town, not necessarily for the family he left behind, but the amenities and the lifestyle. Then there are the police, a collection of misfits and Indians, men in authority whose only job is to capture the priest, and the gringo (a robber and murderer from the United States). They are not necessarily bad men, just committed socialist and men with a job that needs to be done. Then there are those such as Coral, the daughter of a banana plantation owner, mature beyond her years, the parent to her parents. Other characters are introduced throughout the book, such as Padre Jose, a traitor priest, and the half-caste, who remains nameless but ever rememberable with his two yellow fangs and needy demeanour. Each character has some sort of interaction with the "whisky priest", either knowingly or unknowingly, some willingly protect him and hide him, others more begrudgingly, but the strong desire to confess, to hear mass often drives them.

Greene's main character, the "whisky priest" remains nameless throughout the book, and is a struggling character battling with his soul, and his past misdeeds and sins. Why did he stay in Mexico? Can he ever be a martyr? Is he really even a priest anymore, never mind a good priest? These are the sorts of question that plague him throughout the novel. As I ventured further in to the novel I flitted between feelings of dislike, sympathy and anger towards the priest, and it wasn't until the last few chapters  that I felt any true liking towards the priest.

Although I found this novel hard to get into at first, once I reached the halfway mark I feel in love with it, and I feel it is a must read for any book lovers out there. However, Greene novels aren't really the uplifting, so if you're someone in search of a feel good read for the summer, this novel might not be for you.


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2 comments

  1. Lovely book. I like to read those novels.
    Have a nice week... :-)

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    Replies
    1. He is a great writer! And I hope you have a lovely weekend too! H xx

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