Books on GIF #46 — 'Our Man in Havana' by Graham Greene


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books — from bestsellers to classics to unearthed gems — told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'Our Man in Havana' by Graham Greene. 
HavanaOh man, this book is so good and so relevant right now. It's part spy novel and part satire that tells a cautionary tale that's perfect for our era of is a vacuum cleaner salesman living in Havana, Cuba, with his teenaged daughter, Milly. One day, he's approached by a mysterious man named Hawthorne who recruits him to be a spy, instructs him on how to use a government expense account and trains him how to send coded messages using a book on Shakespeare, among other spycraft. Trouble is, Wormold isn't exactly: 
But the vacuum cleaner business isn't booming, and Wormold realizes he can get paid increasing amounts of money for whatever intelligence he provides. That money can buy Milly a horse and equestrian accoutrements as well as pay for her schooling. So he conjures up fake sources and crafts intelligence based on his imagination and sketches he makes of vacuum parts. His handlers in London eat it up, and send not only more money to him, but two additional agents to help him out. The book would be a satirical farce if not for the fact that some of Wormold's fake intelligence starts to come true, with deadly consequences. It then becomes a spy thriller complete with a murder plot involving:'Our Man in Havana' is funny, completely cynical and intense, and I was legit worried for Wormold. Would he be killed by the Cuban police chief who has a passion for playing checkers and acigarette case made of human skin? Would the spymaster with the glass eye throw him in prison? I'm not going to tell you. But I am going to tell you that this book is a good reminder that 
and when we forget that, or allow ourselves to be lulled into a social media echo chamber that feeds us content that reinforces our own beliefs whether true or not, that's bad. We must remain skeptical of the government, what we read in the media, and, perhaps most importantly, what gets shared into our timelines by our friends and family. As I've said here before, we must seek the truth by keeping our minds open, diversifying our experiences, and expanding our sources of news and views. 'Our Man in Havana' is a good place to start.

My rating:   
'Our Man in Havana' by Graham Greene was originally published in 1958 by Willian Heinemann Ltd. The edition reviewed, with (a forgettable) introduction by Christopher Hitchens, was published in 2007 by Penguin Classics. 228 pages.

What's next? In the coming weeks I'll review 'Eve's Hollywood' by Eve Babitz, 'South and West' by Joan Didion and 'The Moor's Account' by Laila Lalami, among others.

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Thanks for reading!*


* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!