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Travels with My Aunt (1969)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,394573,068 (3.86)213
Greene's fine sense of humor is displayed in this warm and far-reaching comic novel,Travels with My Aunt, a bestseller when it appeared originally. At his mother's funeral, Henry Pulling, a stuffy, retired bank manager with an interest in dahlias, meets his Aunt Augusta. The indomitable Aunt Augusta pulls Henry along on a whirlwind adventure traveling with an old lover, Wordsworth; Curran, the founder of a doggies' church; O'Toole, the C.I.A. man obsessed by statistics and his counterculture daughter; and old Mr. Visconti, who has been wanted by Interpol for twenty years. Henry describes his activities with shock and bewilderment, and, finally, with the tenderness of a fellow traveler going their way.… (more)
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English (55)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
At first one thinks Travels with my Aunt is a comic accounting of an author/narrator with an eccentric relative. It is: then it takes some peculiar and even murderous twists.
There is plenty of comedy, though, as we are set up for sudden shocks by the traveling companions, reticent retired bachelor banker, Henry Pulling and Augusta Bertram, a wildly uninhibited septuagenarian.
Much of the humor arises from Greene's descriptions: when describing a pair of American fellow-travelers serving tea, "One of them was raising a little bag, like a drowned animal, from his cup at the end of a cord. At that distressing sight I felt very far away from England ..." Or from Augusta's insouciance: " 'I can't call you Henry. It doesn't sound like a real name. Can I call you Smudge?'
'Why Smudge?'
' I had a dog once called Smudge. I used to talk to him a lot.' "

Much of the humor ends when Augusta's former lover, Nazi collaborator, Mr. Visconti enters into the picture.
Greene's writing never disappoints. This novel is no exception.
  RonWelton | Jun 14, 2021 |
Graham Greene divided his works into two categories -- serious fiction, and entertainments. This is definitely one of the latter. It tells the story of Henry Pulling, a very dull retired bank manager, who is pulled out of his suburban torpor into the orbit of his Aunt Augusta. His aunt is neither dull nor suburban. She is a lady with many men and a good deal of chicanery in her past, and, indeed, in her current activities. Together, this oddly matched pair set off on a series of trips which range further and further from England and English respectability, I didn't fall in love with this book the way I did with another of Greene's entertainments -- "Our Man in Havana". The structure is a little imbalanced, and the characters aren't always easy to like. But Greene's prose makes reading fun, and the book is indeed entertaining. ( )
  annbury | Nov 7, 2020 |
My wife and I both had vague but positive memories of having read "Travels With My Aunt" way back in the last century so we decided to give the audiobook version a try and refresh our memories.

Tim Pigott-Smith is the narrator and he gives a wonderful performance, providing just the right voices for the very wide range of characters in the book and getting the comic timing absolutely right.

The book has a strong, humorous start, as our hero encounters his septuagenarian aunt for the first time at his mother's funeral. She makes quite an impression, her larger than life unashamedly Boheme style serving to highlight the dreariness of her nephew's I-used-to-be-a-bank-manager-but-they-made-me-retire-in-my-fifties-and-now-I-tend-dahlias-and-try-not-to-go-quietly-insane way of life.

It's such a long time since I read this that I'd remembered some of the incidents from Aunt Agatha's life as short stories, without associating them with this book. She has some great stories and has had much practice in telling them. They reminded me of sherbet lemons, brittle and shiny on the outside but with a sugary-yet-bitter centre that leaves you wanting more.

I suspect my (much, much) younger self also failed to work out what exactly our hero's aunt did for a living until much later in the book than it became apparent this time. I was probably as slow as her somewhat dense nephew to work it out.

The first couple of journeys with his aunt, physical journeys and journeys into her remembered past, sparkled. Then we hit the 1960s version of the Orient Express and took a trip to Istambul. The train was drab and dreary and seemed to sap the energy from the chapters describing it.

The pace picked up again in Istambul but the novel never really recovered its sparkle. It is from this point on that our hero starts to lose his innocence.

In the hands of another writer, this stripping away of innocent assumptions and conclusions could have been joyous for everyone involved, with our hero being liberated from a conventional life by a life-affirming aunt. It seemed to me that Graham Greene decided to story in a different direction. Our retired bank manager has always followed the path of least resistance. Once this meant living up to the expectations of his employer and his clients, now it means living up to the expectations of his Aunt. His level of agency remains the same.

While I found the ending quite credible, I also found them dispiriting and slightly sleazy. It's as if Greene couldn't help adding the perception of sin to what could have been innocent fun.

I'm glad we re-read the book. I enjoyed listening to Tim Pigott-Smith but I found the book a bit patchy and slightly disappointing. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Gentle laughs on nearly every page.
Published in 1969 so that the British manners, of which fun is poked, are dated, but still recognisable as those of my parents. ( )
  CarltonC | Apr 12, 2020 |
Henry Pulling is just a little bit dull. He has taken early retirement from the bank, where he was manager, he has never married, and leads a quiet and uninteresting life pottering in the garden and tending his dahlias. At his mother’s funeral he meets her sister, Augusta, again for the first time in 50 years, and she tells him that the lady he considered to be his mother was actually not. He travels back to her home and meets Wordsworth, a man from Sierra Leone and who is his Aunt’s confident and lover, after several drink he returns home. Soon after the police come round asking to see what is in the urn, he explains it is his mothers ashes, but they take it from him for sampling.

His aunt persuades him to join her on a trip to Brighton, as she feels that he needs to travel more, something that a psychic predicts will happen as well. Turns out that the urn with his mothers ashes had drugs added, probably by Wordsworth, who has now disappeared. Henry decides to join his aunt on a trip to Paris, and then onto Istanbul on the Orient Express. The journey is relatively uneventful, but Henry does meet a young lady called Tolley who he develops a friendship with. Very soon after they arrive in Istanbul, they are both approached by the police and questioned. Henery is starting to learn that he Aunt is not always the conventional type, and seems to have had many dodgy dealings and associations. They are soon deported back to the UK.

Back in the UK, Henry returns to his dahlias, but it now doesn’t have the same appeal. The police are asking more question about his aunt too, and one of her former associates, but she has vanished of the face of the earth. Until one day he receives a letter asking him to come to South America, so he sets off to join her once again.

It was quite an enjoyable read. Green has managed to blend a mystery story with travel, a dash of thriller with a healthy dollop of classic British farce. The characters are not particularly deep, but you do see Henry develop from the staid, and serious bank manager to a free spirited man. It was very readable too; Green has a way of pacing the story so you don’t get bored. It was a touch predictable, but entertaining nonetheless.
( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
This marvelous line firmly establishes the mood of the book, which is unmistakably the work of the author whom the French call "Grim Grin."......
The book unmistakably turns its back on the Orphic preoccupations with the hereafter that characterized Greene's Catholic novels, and wholeheartedly embraces a Bacchic emphasis on the here and now. It is a remarkable change of emphasis to have made, and one which seems to deny the very works on which the novelist's reputation is conventionally supposed to rest. Greene makes the point with great wit, but it is clearly intended no less seriously for not being made with solemnity.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Richard Boston (Jul 12, 1970)
 

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Greeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Felsenreich, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piggot-Smith, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polak, Hans W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Publisher Series

dtv (14179)
rororo (1577)
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Epigraph
This were a fine reign:
To do ill and not hear of it again.

The witch of Edmonton
Dedication
For
H.H.K.
who helped me more than I can tell
First words
I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than half a century at my mother's funeral.
Quotations
"I have never planned anything illegal in my life. How could I plan anything of the kind when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Greene's fine sense of humor is displayed in this warm and far-reaching comic novel,Travels with My Aunt, a bestseller when it appeared originally. At his mother's funeral, Henry Pulling, a stuffy, retired bank manager with an interest in dahlias, meets his Aunt Augusta. The indomitable Aunt Augusta pulls Henry along on a whirlwind adventure traveling with an old lover, Wordsworth; Curran, the founder of a doggies' church; O'Toole, the C.I.A. man obsessed by statistics and his counterculture daughter; and old Mr. Visconti, who has been wanted by Interpol for twenty years. Henry describes his activities with shock and bewilderment, and, finally, with the tenderness of a fellow traveler going their way.

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Book description
From the back cover: Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time in over fifty years at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral.
Soon after, she persuades Henry to abandon Southwood, his dahlias and the Major next door to travel her way, Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, Paraguay . . . Through Aunt Augusta, a veteran of Europe's hotel bedrooms, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society; mixing with hippies, war criminals, CIA men; smoking pot, breaking all the currency regulations . . . coming alive after a dull suburban lifetime.
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