Travels with my aunt; a novel

by Graham Greene

Hardcover, 1969

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York, Viking Press [1969]

Description

Aunt Augusta, in her late 70's embroils her bachelor nephew, an utterly respectable, dahlia-growing, retired bank manager, in a series of wild escapades. The action moves from London, across the European continent to Istanbul, and ends in Paraguay. Most of the characters are from Aunt Augusta's somewhat murky past, although there are contemporary figures as a CIA agent and his hippie daughter, and Wordsworth from Sierra Leone, who lives with Aunt Augusta as her valet.

Media reviews

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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member BookAngel_a
This book was...interesting. I liked it a lot, but sometimes I had no idea what was going on - much like the main character.

Henry Pulling has spent his whole life trying to be a respectable English gentleman. He's about 50, retired from the bank, never married. At his mother's funeral he meets his Aunt Augusta. She is eccentric and doesn't care one bit about being respectable. She tells him some things about his father and mother, and Henry, intrigued, wants to further their acquaintance.

Next thing he knows, his aunt Augusta is booking him as her companion on travels to other countries. He wants to say no so he can stay home and take care of his flowers, but he doesn't know how to get out of it. So he goes along.

They have adventures together, and stiff Mr. Pulling begins to know his aunt, and himself, a little better.

Aunt Augusta tells long rambling stories and never fully explains anything...which often leaves Henry (and the reader) a little confused. But I think this is exactly what the author wanted to do.

This book is not going to be for everyone...but I'm pretty sure that if you liked Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, you are going to like this book as well.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Graham Greene will never be remembered as a great comic novelist. He was certainly adept at creating potentially humorous situations. In 'Our Man in Havana', for example, Wormald, an impecunious vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited as a low key agent to forward reports to MI6 about life in Castro's Cuba. Realising that he might be able to generate a decent income from this, Wormald pretends to have recruited his own sub-network of agents and submits fictitious reports, only to be appalled to find that the events he has imagined began really to happen.

In 'Travels With My Aunt' Greene comes closest to achieving genuine humour. The novel opens with the funeral of Angelica Pulling who has died aged eighty-seven. The principal mourner is her son, Henry, who has recently retired from his post as manager of a provincial branch of a bank. Henry's has not been an eventful life, as evinced by his ambitions to pass his retirement rearing dahlias. He is not the sole mourner, though. Among the small group of friends and neighbours and those assorted waifs and strays that crop up at funerals is Augusta, Angelica's younger sister and Henry's aunt. Hitherto unaware even of her existence, Henry is gradually dragged into Augusta's inchoate life which is peopled by a heady melange of shady characters.

Henry finds himself going through some belated rites of passage, meeting a selection of his aunt's friends and acquaintances (though perhaps accomplices might be a more appropriate term for some of them). After an initial overnight jaunt to Brighton, where Henry has his fortune read in tea leaves by a former associate of his aunt, they then venture further afield, taking the Orient Express to Istanbul. While he may not have been the deftest of comic novelists, travel writing was a filed in which Greene did excel, and he imbues the story with glorious local colour.

Greene does succeed in setting up some comic scenarios, though somehow he never quite pulls them off. This is not particularly surprising - the principal attribute of most of Green's works is barely suppressed melancholia, with characters often oppressed by the burden of the aimless tedium of their existence. There are, after all, very few buskers or streets performers roaming the byways of Greeneland. The melancholia is at least held at bay here - the humour may not be of a kind to induce rampant guffawing, but some of the customary clouds have dispersed. Within Greene's own parameters, formed perhaps in a more austere tradition than pertains now, 'Travels With My Aunt' might almost constitute pure farce. Wodehouse might have rendered sheer comedy gold out of the set pieces that Greene constructs, but he would not have managed, nor even attempted, to plumb the depths of his characters in the way that Greene manages so effortlessly.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Graham Greene will never be remembered as a great comic novelist. He was certainly adept at creating potentially humorous situations. In 'Our Man in Havana', for example, Wormald, an impecunious vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited as a low key agent to forward reports to MI6 about life in Castro's Cuba. Realising that he might be able to generate a decent income from this, Wormald pretends to have recruited his own sub-network of agents and submits fictitious reports, only to be appalled to find that the events he has imagined began really to happen.

In 'Travels With My Aunt' Greene comes closest to achieving genuine humour. The novel opens with the funeral of Angelica Pulling who has died aged eighty-seven. The principal mourner is her son, Henry, who has recently retired from his post as manager of a provincial branch of a bank. Henry's has not been an eventful life, as evinced by his ambitions to pass his retirement rearing dahlias. He is not the sole mourner, though. Among the small group of friends and neighbours and those assorted waifs and strays that crop up at funerals is Augusta, Angelica's younger sister and Henry's aunt. Hitherto unaware even of her existence, Henry is gradually dragged into Augusta's inchoate life which is peopled by a heady melange of shady characters.

Henry finds himself going through some belated rites of passage, meeting a selection of his aunt's friends and acquaintances (though perhaps accomplices might be a more appropriate term for some of them). After an initial overnight jaunt to Brighton, where Henry has his fortune read in tea leaves by a former associate of his aunt, they then venture further afield, taking the Orient Express to Istanbul. While he may not have been the deftest of comic novelists, travel writing was a filed in which Greene did excel, and he imbues the story with glorious local colour.

Greene does succeed in setting up some comic scenarios, though somehow he never quite pulls them off. This is not particularly surprising - the principal attribute of most of Green's works is barely suppressed melancholia, with characters often oppressed by the burden of the aimless tedium of their existence. There are, after all, very few buskers or streets performers roaming the byways of Greeneland. The melancholia is at least held at bay here - the humour may not be of a kind to induce rampant guffawing, but some of the customary clouds have dispersed. Within Greene's own parameters, formed perhaps in a more austere tradition than pertains now, 'Travels With My Aunt' might almost constitute pure farce. Wodehouse might have rendered sheer comedy gold out of the set pieces that Greene constructs, but he would not have managed, nor even attempted, to plumb the depths of his characters in the way that Greene manages so effortlessly.
… (more)
LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
This book delights and entertains as one may reasonably expect from Graham Greene. He spins a tale of a stodgey, middle-aged man who meets his Aunt Augusta at his mother's cremation at which event she informs him that she was once present at a Premature Cremation. Horrified and fascinated, he must know more. Eventually they travel throughout Europe and Africa and he gradually comes to believe that there may be much much more to his aunt than he originally thought. The movie, while fun, did not do justice to this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member yapete
Classic Greene. One of the funniest books I ever read.
LibraryThing member debnance
Who in the world could use a big shake more than the stodgy Henry Pulling? Henry never married and spent his life locked up behind the safe and tedious walls of a bank. Then, at his mother’s funeral, Henry met his Aunt Augusta and he was sent spinning out into a world he never knew existed.Graham Greene is that Graham Greene, he of The Power and the Glory and Our Man in Havana and The Quiet American. So Travels With My Aunt is a totally different Graham Greene. Every chapter had me. I now have a new gloriously inspiring role model for my last years.… (more)
LibraryThing member wrichard
Bank clerk Henry Pullen has lived a very quiet life- but then meets his exotic aunt...
LibraryThing member shanjan
Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene is a comedic adventure story of Henry Pulling, a man leading a settled life who first meets his mother's sister, Augusta, at his mother's funeral. Too polite to refuse her request to travel with her, he joins his aunt on the first of a series of journeys. At first Henry is shocked at his aunt's illegal financial dealings and romantic affairs, but after he returns to his life he quickly comes to the realization that that his settled life is actually quite mundane. He concludes that he has a taste for adventure after all and away he goes to track down his aunt and lead a life he never would have imagined he would live.

Aunt Augusta's unpredictable character is juxtaposed with Henry's very buttoned up British personality. Along the way they encounter many quirky and off-beat characters that enhance the zany quality of this novel.

This is not a multi-layered novel full of literary tricks and turns, and the main theme is a pretty straight forward "live life to the fullest" standard message, but Greene's comedic delivery had me smiling.

I am not lover of British humor, so my three star rating lies more in my own personal taste rather than Greene's execution of the novel, but if you enjoy British humor, you would probably love this book. I would categorize it as a good summer read.
… (more)
LibraryThing member pinkmouse
Really enjoyed this book. The light wit which is distributed through the book hides the more serious notes in the book. I really enjoyed the exploration of the characters and the life of the narraters aunt unravelling. One of my favourite books by Graham greene.
LibraryThing member g026r
Early late-period Greene and, as late-period Greene goes, not my favourite at that. Buoyed in parts by amusing set-pieces and witty dialogue, and dragged down in others by scenes and characters that are embarrassingly dated products of a bygone time and place. At its best its Greene at his funniest. At its worst its just downright offensive.… (more)
LibraryThing member omame
i am deeply. madly. crazily in love with graham greene after finishing this book.

more later.
LibraryThing member ccayne
This book was perfect as the shortest day of the year approached. It is lighthearted, funny and quirky. Henry Pulling's life veers in a wildly new direction when he meets Aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral. At first I thought it was going to be a compilation of their exploits but it turned out to have a more serious undercurrent. This book is another example of how to show without telling. Henry comes to realize, as does the reader, that is is our connections with others that give life to life. Much of the book is dated but it is charming nonetheless.… (more)
LibraryThing member otterley
Mild mannered retired suburban bank manager meets zany lady with disreputable past for trips to Paris, Istanbul and the South American jungle. En route he discovers life, love, family and the joys of jewel smuggling. Light, humorous, but also touching, Greene's wonderful characterisation and razor sharp prose are at the service of pleasure rather than guilt in this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member dolphari
Although less profound than some of the author's other books, still entertaining. Henry Pulling, a retired bachelor, with a very organized and boring life, falls in with his 75-year-old Aunt Augusta when her young African butler, Wordsworth, stashes some marijuana in Henry's mother's ashes. Thus begins a zany adventure across the world. Wordsworth adores Augusta, who still holds affection for Mr. Visconti, who stole her money. In the end, Henry learns that Augusta is really his mother, but he was given to her sister to raise in a conventional lifestyle. Henry makes a new life in South America with his aunt/mother and Mr. Visconti, and marries a young girl.… (more)
LibraryThing member June6Bug
Totally different from the other Greene novels I've read - hilarious and surprising.
LibraryThing member nicx27
Henry Pulling is a retired bank manager. At his mother's funeral, he encounters his long lost aunt, Augusta. She manages to talk him into leaving suburbia and his dahlias behind to travel with her to Brighton, Istanbul, Boulogne and Paraguay. Along the way, he encounters lots of unusual people, and unusual circumstances.

This is a nice enough read, but I did find it all a bit silly. I didn't much like aunt Augusta's voice, which irritated me at times, and there were quite a few ridiculously coincidental meetings during the travels too.

This is not a book I would rave about, but pleasant enough if you like that sort of thing.
… (more)
LibraryThing member bettyjo
so funny...the aunt and the nephew are great characters.
LibraryThing member John_Vaughan
This book, the author claimed, “is the only one that I wrote for fun”.
It is.
LibraryThing member markfinl
Henry Pulling, is a retired bank manager who is leading what may be the most boring life ever when he meets his Aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral. Although Augusta is in her seventies, she is far livelier than Henry and soon he is traveling the world in her wake. This book is fun, funny and full of surprises.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
I love the humor in this book. The fact that the aunt is so brutally honest and yet retains a compassionate nature puts her up there with Maude (from the 1971 movie _Harold and Maude_). A character she greatly resembles in terms of spirit I might add.
LibraryThing member bibliophile_pgh
This is the first book I had read by Graham Greene and have my best friend to thank for introducing me to this book as we were walking past a used bookstore in Toronto. I was very humorous and a great storyline as well. After reading this I couldn't wait to dive into his other books.
LibraryThing member PetreaBurchard
An enjoyable read. I like Greene but this isn't his best. The writing's good but the "secret" is a little obvious. The ending is disappointing, too, probably because it's dated. I had hoped our hero would be just that, but...
LibraryThing member bibliophile_pgh
I found this book in a used book store in Toronto. I was with a coworker and she had asked if I had ever read anything by Graham Greene. I had not and this was my introduction. I would probably say this was one of the best books I had read. It was laugh out loud funny in parts.
LibraryThing member nmele
Not my favorite Greene novel but rereading it after many years I was surprised to note that in this novel he begins to write like the Greene who wrote his later novels (Monsignor Quixote, The Bomb Party). Also, a priceless little episode while Pullen, the narrator is on a river boat toward the end of the book--only striking to a member of our family, however.… (more)
LibraryThing member etxgardener
I've just reread this book for the first time in probably 40 years and had forgotten how truly funny it is and what a change from most of the other things that Graham Greene wrote. Here there is no Catholic guilt, nor is there the nasty overtones (or undertones as the case may be) of the cold war. Instead we have a paen to silliness and a send-up of the typical characters who appear in Greene's more serious works - Most notably James O'Toole of the CIA.

Henry Pulling is a mild mannered retired bank manager living in the London suburbs peaceably tending his dahlias when his Aunt Augusta, whom he hasn't seen since he was a very small boy, appears at his mother's funeral and quickly takes over his life. She whisks him away from the service (along with the urn of his mother's ashes) to her rather dubious apartment located over a pub with an even more dubious Jamaican "man servant" who she has dubbed Wordsworth The latter, a dealer in pot and under suspicion from the local police, mixes his contraband in with Henry's mother's ashes leading to what will be come the first of many unfortunate encounters Henry has with law enforcement.

Aunt Augusta's life has been everything that Henry's has not. She has been a circus performer, a kept woman in Paris, a prostitute and a lover of many, many men, the most important of which is the shadowy Snr. Visconti who is reputed to be both an art thief and a collaborator with the Nazis. None of these people sound sympathetic in the abstract, but in the skilled hands of Graham Greene they all become amazingly likeable. Is it any surprise then, that Henry also finds himself drawn to this life of adventure?

The novel covers many topical events of the 1960's, so brushing up on events in Paraguay, Argentina, and Turkey during that period will greatly add to the enjoyment of this book. The novel was made into a movie in the early 1970's with Maggie Smith (who else?) in the role of Aunt Augusta, However, Hollywood made its usual hash of the story, so don't think you can watch the movie and not read the book. And besides, the book is just so much fun.
… (more)

Language

Barcode

1007
Page: 0.357 seconds