Monday, May 30, 2011

Brief Book Review: 'The Confidential Agent' by Graham Greene

Brief Book Review: The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene

A former lecturer in romance languages, D is now a middle-aged confidential agent of the Left, who is in England attempting to secure coal for his side in his unnamed wore-torn home country (which contextually corresponds with Spain). An enemy agent, L, is already in England to perform the same task for what is depicted as the morally bankrupt Right.

The moment the widowed D steps off at the station he chances to meet the daughter of the coal magnate he is required to see. Despite their age gap, she begins to fall for the much older D. She even refers quite comically to her oedipal complex.

The story explores class differences, the grey issues of government and business, xenophobia and mistrust. D’s heroism stems from his valuing of humanity and he evolves over the text’s duration into a determined agent rather than the nervous, passive man that the reader is initially introduced to.

The Confidential Agent is a thriller, which concentrates on character and alludes to ethical dilemmas and larger ideologies rather than simply the ‘over-the-top’ action moments that often pollute many of today’s thrillers.

While not as enlightening as the Power and the Glory or The Heart of the Matter, The Confidential Agent is a highly entertaining and rewarding read.


  1. Nice Anthony, I hadn't heard of this GG novel. I'm considering which of his to read next - I've read Power and the Glory and The Quiet American - looking for something of a novella length.

    Any suggestions?

  2. Wish I could help you, Mark. I read quite a few before eventually deciding that I am not a huge fan of his shorter work. I thought that 'The Power and the Glory' (did I force that upon you?) was superb – one of my all time favourites - and 'The Quiet American' very good too. What were your thoughts after reading them?

    For longer works, 'The Heart of the Matter' and 'The Honorary Consul' are also worthwhile reads.

    You mentioned previously being interested in Will Self. If you still are, he has an excellent novella called '161' in one of his collections (I can't recall which).