Review by Booklist Review
Retracing his subject's awesome geographical footsteps and drawing uncanny parallels between reality and the art of Greene's fiction, Sherry has produced a massive and forceful biocritical opus of the formative years in the life of a major figure in world literature.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The celebrated novelist chose his biographer because, according to Sherry, he was impressed with his studies of Joseph Conrad, and by the fact that he had journeyed to the places his subject had known. That was 14 years ago, and in the course of preparing this massive study of Greene (still very much alive at 84), Sherry trod in the novelist's wide-ranging footsteps too. He also was given access to Greene's remarkable letters, granted occasional, highly reluctant interviews by his reclusive subject, and even managed to unearth Britons who knew him at school. The portrait that results is riveting, going to the heart of Greene's darkly anguished worldview and the anxieties, guilts and demons that have driven him to create more than 30 novels, travel books and essay collections. From the start, as a pupil at a school where his father was headmaster, Greene was unhappily out of place, aware in the bullying of his schoolfellows of the omnipresence of evil. He suffered agonizingly from boredom and as an Oxford student went on harebrained cloak-and-dagger trips to Germany and Ireland in search of danger; in extremity, he played Russian roulette with a loaded revolver. Some of this has been recounted in Greene's own eliptical memoirs, A Sort of Life and Ways of Escape , but Sherry expands on them convincingly, showing what the novelist evaded or omitted. Entirely new, too, are the details of Greene's romantically obsessive courtship of Vivien, the wife for whose sake he embraced Roman Catholicism. Sherry is as good on the literary side as on the personal. Greene's books are exhaustively mined for sources--Sherry's travels yield remarkable discoveries, including the identities of some of the people who were fashioned into characters in Brighton Rock and The Power and the Glory --and judiciously evaluated. Greene's early journalism, his fascination with the movies and his years as a reviewer also make absorbing chapters. Biography on this scale, and of this quality, is rare and justifies its length. The second volume is eagerly awaited. Photos not seen by PW . (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Released in 1989 and 1995, respectively, these two volumes garnered critical praise. Penguin is rereleasing the volumes as part of Greene's centenary celebration. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An extraordinarily detailed yet compellingly readable portrait of the complex and enigmatic author of such modern classics as Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, and The Third Man. The first of two projected volumes, the narrative traces Greene's progress from his birth in Berkhamsted, England, as the son of a public-school headmaster, through his highly troubled childhood, early marriage and struggles to establish a literary reputation, and widespread travels and eventual successes, to the eve of WW II. Sherry (Literature/Trinity Univ.) sets his subject in a sweeping landscape that includes the England of Sitwell, Auden, and Huxley; the African wilderness; and war-torn Mexico during the 1930's. Central to Sherry's study are Greene's relationships with his fellow students at Berkhamsted School--which his father headed--and with the woman he was to marry. He felt betrayed and tortured by the former and was subject to frequent periods of depression, suffering a nervous breakdown at 16 and attempting suicide several times. Later, when besotted with the deeply religious Roman Catholic Vivien Dayrell, he seriously considered agreeing to her suggestion that theirs be ""a celibate marriage."" It was in order to marry Vivien that Greene converted to Roman Catholicism in 1926, a decision that determined in many ways the course of his personal and literary development. In addition to delineating the complex physical and psychic events of his subject's life with immense clarity and grace, Sherry is also adept at pointing out the connections between Greene's writings and the minutiae of his daily existence. He identifies, for example, female characters in several novels--It's a Battlefield, A Gun for Sale, Brighton Rock--as being modeled on one of Greene's slatternly landladies. In an amazing feat of scholarship, he also tracks down the model for the ""Judas figure"" in Greene's The Power and the Glory--after 40 years and in the back country of Mexico. Surely one of the most impressive biographies of the past few years. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.