I went into Our Man in Havana with very few expectations, however, I came out of reading Our Man in Havana completely surprised.
I had never read any Greene before I tackled this short "entertainment" but as a good bookseller I knew a bit about him, yet I wasn't sure that he would be for me. I was under the vague impression that it was a thriller of sorts and I was a bit surprised when I started reading the book and found out that it was a comedy. I was delighted by the writing and the clean and understated (yet obvious if that makes sense) satire.
The book starts with a British secret agent, looking to increase his community of contacts, so he arranges for an ordinary vacuum cleaner salesman to file reports of any unusual activity in the area. The merchant, Wormold, reluctantly agrees to this arrangement for no reason other than the lure of extra money; he has a teenage daughter with very expensive tastes. To keep himself employable, Wormold constructs a whole world of intrigue to literally write home about. All of the "inventions" and stories Wormold writes home about are funny and any reader will giggle as they read. Of course will all of these inventions complications arise. He is sent reinforcements from London and he has to scramble to keep them in the dark. And then his inventions seem to take on life as his characters begin to die, and people are suddenly convinced that he is a spy. Despite the comic portions of the plot, the characters themselves are allowed to retain a certain dignity.
One particular scene stood out as a wonderful piece of writing. Placing two main characters inside a dark, dingy saloon, Greene describes the other inhabitants as looking like paratroopers about to parachute out of an airplane. Their quick glances at the door and their hushed demeanor are all beautifully described. Our Man In Havana is a relatively short novel; it makes for a quick read, but not a throwaway one. The neat cuts of satire make this a hilarious and whimsical tale.
Overall a great read, pick it up I think you will enjoy it. And for those of you who are faster readers than I am, I am sure you can finish it in a day or two.