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The Ministry of Fear (1943)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,6553210,864 (3.7)84
On a peaceful Sunday afternoon, Arthur Rowe comes upon a charity fete in the gardens of a Cambridgeshire vicarage where he wins a game of chance. If only this were an ordinary day. Britain is under threat by Germany, and the air raid sirens that bring the bazaar to a halt expose Rowe as no ordinary man. Recently released from a psychiatric prison for the mercy killing of his wife, he is burdened by guilt, and now, in possession of a seemingly innocuous prize, on the run from a nest of Nazi spies who want him dead. Pursued on a dark odyssey through the bombed-out streets of London, he becomes enmeshed in a tangle of secrets that reach into the dark recesses of his own forgotten past. And there isn't a soul he can trust, not even himself. Because Arthur Rowe doesn't even know who he really is.… (more)
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» See also 84 mentions

English (31)  Spanish (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I like Graham Greene’s writing and other books. I just couldn’t get into this one. ( )
  ellink | Jan 22, 2024 |
Looking for some context, well, really, explanation, for this bizarre, poorly executed concoction, I turned to Volume 2 of Norman Sherry’s biography only to read the most uncritical description of it as Greene’s ‘most brilliant thriller’. I wondered if I was reading the same book. Even when his ‘serious’ books were being praised when his literary reputation was at its height, the ‘entertainments’ (of which this is one) were seen as slight. Well this seems to me worse than slight. An absurd plot with what seem to be the dregs of ideas from other unwritten books thrown in, it just never at any stage convinces, either as a novel or as a worthwhile use of the reader's time. ( )
  djh_1962 | Jan 7, 2024 |
The narrative is like a dream; faint, tenuous webs of logic tie together vividly written scenes varying in tone and setting (from a fair, to the offices of a charity group, to a seance, to a bombed-out apartment, to an asylum, etc.). I did not find it terribly compelling, as it rests on dated (and to 21st century sensibilities, strange) notions of amnesia and a rather unconvincing love interest. ( )
  jklugman | Dec 13, 2023 |
"Don't tell me the past. Tell me the future."

I will never look at a cake the same way again.

Winning a cake at a little street fair. Such a simple thing that gets our story rolling, sending our protagonist on a dangerous adventure that he certainly doesn't consciously want, but surely needs if he is to learn who he is in the world, and how he fits in it.

Greene places us in WWII Britain during the Blitz. We are there, without a doubt. Perhaps it is so real because Greene was there, writing this novel as the bombs fell around him. Or, it may be because Greene's prose, as a rule, is just so tight and sharp. Probably both.

Arthur Rowe is such a superb character--real in his faults and emotions, and ignorant of his own latent heroism. The dialogue is crisp and perfect. The descriptions are precise. The writing is economical, and so much so, you wonder after finishing the novel how you can know so much, and feel as if you've lived it yourself. Such a master of story-telling in only 221 pages.

"One can't love humanity. One can only love people."

"It occurred to him that perhaps after all one could atone even to the dead if one suffered for the living enough." ( )
  MickeyMole | Oct 2, 2023 |
3.5

A fun little novel with a few surprising twists. Quite gripping for the first 2 thirds or so - arguably Greene at his best. Unfortunately, this is watered down towards the end by what is revealed to be an overly elaborate plot and an unconvincing romance. ( )
  TheScribblingMan | Jul 29, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Few writers can distill drama from a twisted soul with more skill than Mr. Greene; few experts in the field would dare to combine all the elements you will find in "The Ministry of Fear." The novel begins as a case-history in psychiatry, and ends as a spy hunt, complete with roving Heinkels, pukka sahibs, and a pale Austrian beauty who keeps her enigma to the end. Only the Graham Greene fans will know how cunningly this English virtuoso endows his lumber-room items with life. "The Ministry of Fear" is top-hole entertainment and then some -- a guaranteed chiller to beat the first Summer heat-wave.
 
If you’re after brilliant writing and an exciting plot and don’t mind dodgy theology then Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear is the book for you.
Greene called his novel an ‘entertainment’ but it is clearly much more than that. Despite creating one or two implausible moments in the plot, Greene draws us into the action from the very first pages and doesn’t let us go. The descriptive writing is tremendous and the sense of fear is utterly palpable as Arthur Rowe, the novel’s anti-hero, flees for his life after getting caught up with a Nazi spy ring when attending a fête during the darkest days of the London blitz.
 

» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Furst, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puchwein, WaltherÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap, H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Have they brought home the haunch?
Charlotte M. Yonge
The Little Duke
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There was something about a fete which drew Arthur Rowe irresistibly, bound him a helpless victim to the distant blare of a band and the knock-knock of wooden balls against coconuts.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On a peaceful Sunday afternoon, Arthur Rowe comes upon a charity fete in the gardens of a Cambridgeshire vicarage where he wins a game of chance. If only this were an ordinary day. Britain is under threat by Germany, and the air raid sirens that bring the bazaar to a halt expose Rowe as no ordinary man. Recently released from a psychiatric prison for the mercy killing of his wife, he is burdened by guilt, and now, in possession of a seemingly innocuous prize, on the run from a nest of Nazi spies who want him dead. Pursued on a dark odyssey through the bombed-out streets of London, he becomes enmeshed in a tangle of secrets that reach into the dark recesses of his own forgotten past. And there isn't a soul he can trust, not even himself. Because Arthur Rowe doesn't even know who he really is.

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Legacy Library: Graham Greene

Graham Greene has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

See Graham Greene's legacy profile.

See Graham Greene's author page.

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