Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene - Book Review

(I apologise for the the quality of the image. I shall upload a better one soon.)

Publisher's write-up :

For Arthur Rowe the charity fête was a trip back to childhood, to innocence, a welcome chance to escape the terror of the blitz, to forget twenty years of his past and murder. Then he guesses the weight of the cake, and from that moment on he's a hunted man, the target of shadowy killers, on the run and struggling to find the truth.”

Set during the time of “The Blitz”, Ministry of Fear, is a mystery / thriller novel written by the British author Graham Greene. Arthur Rowe, a man probably in his late forties (it is purely my assumption, might be a detail I've missed out on, while reading), attends a fête, where he consults a fortune teller, who tells him to guess the weight of a cake, at a raffle which was being conducted at the fête and tells him the exact weight. Rowe does so, and wins the cake but from that moment, he is a hunted man and an attempt was made to poison Rowe at his own residence and retrieve the cake but, at that juncture, Rowe's house is destroyed by a bomb, due to an air-raid and the cake was gone, along with his house. Rowe wanted to follow this up and find out why some people are desperate for the cake. Little did he realise that he was just sending an open invitation to “danger” by doing so and probably, Rowe's only advantage is that, he himself has a shady past and is a murderer himself. During the course of the plot, Rowe is also charged with a murder, committed during a séance and evidences are against him. He goes into hiding, still desperate to uncover the mystery behind the cake. Giving out any more details would make this review a spoiler.

Greene has to be appreciated for the complex character which he has created in Arthur Rowe. A man with a shady past and with an excessive sense of pity for a protagonist, would put the reader into a dilemma, on whether to side with Rowe in his endeavours or not and in most cases, it is not likely to be the latter. Greene also brought out Rowe's character in a very interesting way, in the chapter, “Between Sleeping and Walking”. It was different, unlike most books, where, the protagonist's character is just brought out in one paragraph. The plot, throughout, was moving in one direction, something which should certainly be appreciated in a thriller. Another highlight of this book is the description of the war-torn city of London. In a thriller novel, a reader can't trust any character, anyone might betray the protagonist at any time and this novel is certainly not an exception to this clichéd definition. Moreover, Greene definitely would have to be credited for making a big issue, 220 pages long, to be precise, out of a meagre cake.

However, this novel is far from being perfect, despite the high amount of positives. Although the novel largely maintained a good pace, like a usual thriller, the second book of the novel, “The Happy Man” was like a road hump, and nearly looked like a sub-plot. Although the content of that book was definitely essential to the story, I found it a little boring. One might realise that sometimes, in this book, the coincidences that occur in this novel crosses the break even point for the line “believable”. Certain incidents were left unexplained, which ended up creating some lose ends. The book definitely had a good plot, but I don't think it was presented in the best way, and thus, reading this book might not be an experience which gives pleasure.

The book certainly has a lot of positives and in fact, I've hardly listed out so many positives in any of my other book reviews. But, the only reason why most people read works of fiction, particularly in this genre, is to enjoy and so, obviously, the rating would be pulled down for the very fact that I didn't really enjoy reading the novel. I'd say that, this book, in some areas is extremely good and in other areas ; I would not like to use the superlative, but would just end my description with a simple adjective, bad. I shall prefer sitting on the fence, when question of rating the book arises and I shall award this book a “neither here nor there” kind of a rating.

Rating – 5/10

Have a nice day,

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