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Loving Graham Greene: A Novel by Gloria…

Loving Graham Greene: A Novel

by Gloria Emerson

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I must be a sucker for novels with the names of other authors in their titles. Just this week I bought a copy of "Cleaning Nabokov's House" by Leslie Daniels. A few weeks ago I finished "The Last Dickens" by Matthew Pearl. Also on my shelves I have "The Poe Shadow" by the same author and, among other books, "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" and "The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte." Now I have read Gloria Emerson's 2000 novel "Loving Graham Greene."

Emerson, a New York Times war correspondent, wrote just the one novel before her death in 2004, but it is a small gem. The story tells of Molly Benson, an idealistic American woman with more money than sense. Novelist Graham Greene has recently died as the story opens, and Molly is still in mourning. She loves his books and once met the great writer. She imagines he was a close friend, although she is beginning to realize his letters to her were merely polite responses to her letters to him, nothing more. In any event, she wants to make some grand gesture in Greene's memory, and she decides to use her money to try to free imprisoned writers in Algeria.

Algeria is a dangerous place at this time, especially to foreigners, but Molly decides she must go there herself, as she imagines Graham Greene would have done. With her are her friend Bertie, another middle-aged woman, and Toby, an overweight younger man, who is invited along only because Molly's husband, busy making a film in Japan, thinks two women shouldn't travel alone to a Muslim country.

There is a scene where the group visits an Algerian hospital and Molly learns about their desperate shortage of supplies because of lack of funds. Yet she doesn't even consider donating any of her money to this cause. She prefers schemes more grand and symbolic, however impractical they may be. She believes her plan, which involves carrying a lot of American money in her shoes and handing it out to anyone who might conceivably be of help, is more worthy of Graham Greene.

Emerson's novel is alternately funny and sad. Just about every sentence is a masterpiece. The novel, at any rate, is worthy of Graham Greene. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Nov 30, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385720351, Paperback)

This marvelous debut novel by former New York Times correspondent and National Book Award--winner Gloria Emerson is a witty and deeply affecting portrait of the stubborn hopes and disillusionment of a privileged woman who dreams of making a difference in the world.

The polite correspondence she shares with the novelist Graham Greene inspires Molly Benson to see him as her moral guiding light. After his death in 1991, Molly sets out to honor his memory by going on a mission with two friends to Algeria at the start of that nation's brutal civil war, intending to save intellectuals from Islamic fundamentalist hit squads. But nothing in her genteel existence has prepared her for the perilous journey on which she and her humble delegation are about to embark.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:28 -0400)

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