4.22.2008

The Ministry Of Fear

Several months ago, I started making the effort to spend more time reading and less time watching television, and then at the beginning of January, I even made it a resolution.

Since I’ve been reading more and thinking about what I’ve been reading, I decided to start blogging short reviews of some of the stuff I like. These will probably not be too detailed, and will mainly be an excuse to share some of my favorite lines.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene. Greene divided his works into “entertainments” and “novels” to distinguish between the level of literary importance he placed on them, but even his entertainments (of which The Ministry of Fear is one) tended to touch on deep themes, often of a religious nature.

The Ministry of Fear is set in the blitz of London during World War II, and centers on a guilt-plagued man named Arthur Rowe who unwittingly becomes entangled with a group of spies after he guesses the correct weight of a cake at a charity carnival.

Rowe is a sensitive man who can’t stand to see pain in others, a characteristic directly responsible for the overwhelming sense of guilt he constantly feels:
“He was filled with horror at the thought of what a child becomes, and what the dead must feel watching the change from innocence to guilt and powerless to stop it.”


“It wasn’t only evil men who did these things. Courage smashes a cathedral, endurance lets a city starve, pity kills…we are trapped and betrayed by out virtues.”

The Ministry of Fear is also a love story, as Rowe’s chance at redemption comes through a woman who knows about his past and doesn’t blame him for it.
“He listened to her with dumb astonishment. No one had ever talked to him openly about it. It was painful, but it was the sort of pain you feel when iodine is splashed on a wound—the sort of pain you can bear.”

“Like a boy, he was driven relentlessly towards inevitable suffering, loss, and despair and called it happiness.”

It’s around this part of the book that I have my only real criticism, as the sudden appearance of a love interest is unexpected and somewhat unbelievable. However, if you can manage to suspend your disbelief to accept that plot device, The Ministry of Fear is a quirky and entertaining spy thriller that will encourage you to think about deeper issues.

4 comments:

Angela 4/22/08, 5:08 PM  

I've never read any of Greene's work. What made you want to pick this one up?

Luke 4/23/08, 8:57 AM  

Angela,

Jared has read quite a bit of his stuff, and gave me a copy of this book several years ago. It just sat on my shelf for a long time, and then one day I picked it up when looking for something to read.

Jared Dockery 4/28/08, 8:18 AM  

Essentially, the main difference between Greene's "entertainments" and his novels is that in the former, the main character doesn't die. That being said, you ought to read "Our Man In Havana" (another entertainment). It's hilarious.

Luke 4/28/08, 12:54 PM  

Jared,

I might try it next. I'm almost finished with "The Jungle".

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