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"I met Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother's funeral..."   Described by Graham Greene as "the only book I have written just for the fun of it," Travels with My Aunt is the story of Hanry Pulling, a retired and complacent bank manager who meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral. She soon persuades Henry "I met Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother's funeral..."   Described by Graham Greene as "the only book I have written just for the fun of it," Travels with My Aunt is the story of Hanry Pulling, a retired and complacent bank manager who meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral. She soon persuades Henry to abandon his dull suburban existence to travel her way—winding through Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, and Paraguay. Through Aunt Augusta, one of Greene's greatest comic creations, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society; mixes with hippies, war criminals, and CIA men; smokes pot; and breaks all currency regulations.   Originally published in 1969, Travels with My Aunt offers intoxicating entertainment, yet also confronts some of the most perplexing human dilemmas.


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"I met Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother's funeral..."   Described by Graham Greene as "the only book I have written just for the fun of it," Travels with My Aunt is the story of Hanry Pulling, a retired and complacent bank manager who meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral. She soon persuades Henry "I met Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother's funeral..."   Described by Graham Greene as "the only book I have written just for the fun of it," Travels with My Aunt is the story of Hanry Pulling, a retired and complacent bank manager who meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time at what he supposes to be his mother's funeral. She soon persuades Henry to abandon his dull suburban existence to travel her way—winding through Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, and Paraguay. Through Aunt Augusta, one of Greene's greatest comic creations, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society; mixes with hippies, war criminals, and CIA men; smokes pot; and breaks all currency regulations.   Originally published in 1969, Travels with My Aunt offers intoxicating entertainment, yet also confronts some of the most perplexing human dilemmas.

30 review for Travels with My Aunt (Classics Deluxe Edition)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    "One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings: it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand. Even if we have the happy chance to fall in love, it is because we have been conditioned by what we have read..." - Graham Greene, Travels With my Aunt Having only read one other Graham Greene book previously (Brighton Rock) I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. It turned out to be a fun and entertaining story about Henry Puling, a very unim "One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings: it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand. Even if we have the happy chance to fall in love, it is because we have been conditioned by what we have read..." - Graham Greene, Travels With my Aunt Having only read one other Graham Greene book previously (Brighton Rock) I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. It turned out to be a fun and entertaining story about Henry Puling, a very unimaginative, conservative retired English bachelor in his 50s who meets his eccentric Aunt Augusta for the first time in decades on the day of his mother's funeral. Aunt Augusta is one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever come across in fiction; she's selfish, unapologetic, and has had quite the unconventional life, especially if you consider that she's in her mid-70s and this story takes place in the late 1960s. She takes Henry away from his boring humdrum life of tending dahlias, and they end up travelling around the world, breaking laws and meeting a motley crowd. There was a lot of dry humour in this book which seems to have stood the test of time. While in Turkey Aunt Augusta says, "Politics in Turkey are taken more seriously than they are at home. It was only quite recently that they executed a Prime Minister. We dream of it, but they act." Well, it made me laugh! The mildly infuriating Aunt Augusta is definitely a people person and loves to tell stories. How true they are, Henry still isn't quite sure. Yet, as he later muses: "What does the truth matter? All characters once dead, if they continue to exist in memory at all, tend to become fictions. Hamlet is no less real now than Winston Churchill, and Joe Pulling no less historical than Don Quixote." In between all the shenanigans, Greene leaves some food for thought: "Human communication, it sometimes seems to me, involves an exaggerated amount of time. How briefly and to the point people always seem to speak on the stage or on the screen, while in real life we stumble from phrase to phrase with endless repetition." There's still some things I haven't figured out about this book yet. I feel Greene packed a lot more social commentary in here than my bookclub and I had time to discuss. Firstly, I felt he was poking fun at the postcolonial, post-War era, but I don't know enough about England at this time to confirm this. But maybe I wasn't meant to take the novel as seriously as I did at times. One part did shock me though. (view spoiler)[ Why on earth did Greene have Henry engaged to a 14 year old South American girl (they will marry as soon as she turns 16) right on the last page? What is this? I found that deeply disturbing and want to know why Greene added that part, especially right at the end (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    Clever and witty, a character driven novel written in a crisp clean style. Fun comes from the interplay between stodgy Henry and his outrageous Aunt. Told through Henry’s eyes, a cautious man recently retired from banking who never married, whose passion has never extended beyond the growing of dahlias. “I like to change my clothes as little as possible. I suppose some people would say the same of my ideas, the bank had taught me to be wary of whims.” Contrasted with Aunt Augusta who first appea Clever and witty, a character driven novel written in a crisp clean style. Fun comes from the interplay between stodgy Henry and his outrageous Aunt. Told through Henry’s eyes, a cautious man recently retired from banking who never married, whose passion has never extended beyond the growing of dahlias. “I like to change my clothes as little as possible. I suppose some people would say the same of my ideas, the bank had taught me to be wary of whims.” Contrasted with Aunt Augusta who first appears at his mothers funeral, an immoral woman with one driving ambition - live life to the fullest. Making no apologies for her self absorption she leaves in her wake a trail of broken hearts. Brutally honest “I've never wanted a man who needed me, Henry. A need is a claim” she simply is who she is, takes full responsibility for her actions and casts no blame. 'I despise no one, no one. Regret your own actions, if you like that kind of wallowing in self-pity, but never, never despise.” Henry's life is irreversibly changed when he joins her as a travelling companion, entering “my aunt's world, the world of the unexpected character and the unforeseen event.’ As British Humour a solid 4 stars. My first but not last Graham Greene, think Our Man in Havana next. Cons: A tad dated (but not annoyingly so) and the plot is a bit weak. If you’re the kind who writes off old people as boring you’ll really hate it, but I'm telling you - you'll be missing out on some deliciously funny stories. And finally parts of it are sorta sick (view spoiler)[ ends with 65 yr old Henry engaged to a 16 year old virgin, yuk (hide spoiler)] It’s obvious Graham was just having fun writing this - don’t take it too seriously - he clearly didn’t. ________________________________________ “Laziness and good nature often go together.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    James

    ‘Travels with my Aunt’ (1969) is certainly the funniest book by Graham Greene that I have read so far. It tells us the entertaining story of Henry Pulling our very conservative, socially compliant, dull and boring erstwhile bank manager of some years standing. Henry encounters the eponymous ‘Aunt’ – Augusta for the first time in 50 years and as the title suggests, almost involuntarily, embarks on said ‘travels’. So whilst at first glance ‘Travels with my Aunt’ is ostensibly not as profound nor in ‘Travels with my Aunt’ (1969) is certainly the funniest book by Graham Greene that I have read so far. It tells us the entertaining story of Henry Pulling our very conservative, socially compliant, dull and boring erstwhile bank manager of some years standing. Henry encounters the eponymous ‘Aunt’ – Augusta for the first time in 50 years and as the title suggests, almost involuntarily, embarks on said ‘travels’. So whilst at first glance ‘Travels with my Aunt’ is ostensibly not as profound nor in the same league as Greene’s classics (Power and the Glory, Heart of the Matter, End of the Affair etc) – it is a very much a different kind of novel. But don’t be fooled by this veneer of a seemingly light-hearted and superficial fun story – there meaning here too. Amusing and entertaining though this novel is (being one of Greene’s so-called ‘entertainments’ rather than serious novels) – as it comes from the pen of Graham Greene, there is of course a serious nature and undertone to the story. There is much here about the dullness and self-imposed imprisonment of suburban domestic life – focussing on this aspect of an imprisoning effect, being happy yet bored, successful yet uninspired, an absence or suppression of any sense of adventure. What is painted here is very much a middle England, middle class, middle brow, middle management existence – certainly as the starting point and impetuous for our forthcoming adventure. As with all of Greene’s work, ‘Travels with my Aunt’ is expertly executed from start to finish – Greene is very much a solid and reliable, as well as brilliant, writer. Both Aunt Augusta and Henry Pulling are so very well created and drawn and when it all comes down to it – don’t we all secretly wish for our very own Aunt Augusta and a series of perplexing but exciting and life changing adventures to call our own? It that sense at least, it is not just Henry who is escaping here – it is the reader also who, as with the best of novels, is on a real journey of escapism and discovery here.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “…and in any case I have a weakness for funerals. People are generally seen at their best on these occasions, serious and sober, and optimistic on the subject of personal immortality.” Graham Greene has at once won my attention with his subtle irony – for me it is the best kind of wit. Protagonist and narrator, Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager is a very timorous and highly introvertive man. This is the boy: “Too many books by too many authors can be confusing, like too many shirts and suits. I “…and in any case I have a weakness for funerals. People are generally seen at their best on these occasions, serious and sober, and optimistic on the subject of personal immortality.” Graham Greene has at once won my attention with his subtle irony – for me it is the best kind of wit. Protagonist and narrator, Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager is a very timorous and highly introvertive man. This is the boy: “Too many books by too many authors can be confusing, like too many shirts and suits. I like to change my clothes as little as possible. I suppose some people would say the same of my ideas, but the bank had taught me to be wary of whims. Whims so often end in bankruptcy.” His aunt, Aunt Augusta is a woman of the world, she is very extravertive and she knows no scruples. This is the girl: “I remembered how at Brighton she had told me that her idea of fame was to be represented at Tussaud's, dressed in one of her own costumes, and I really believe she would have opted for the Chamber of Horrors rather than have had no image made of her at all.” So thrown together they constitute quite an alliance… “It was as though I had escaped from an open prison, had been snatched away, provided with a rope ladder and a waiting car, into my aunt's world, the world of the unexpected character and the unforeseen event.” Travels With My Aunt is a weird, witty mystery and for me it turned out to be a real delight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    J. Watson (aka umberto)

    Since some years ago I’ve tried to read this seemingly readable “Travels With My Aunt” but it’s a pity I could read no more than 8-10 pages and left it on its stack, more than once. So last month I decided to read it hoping to enjoy this fiction like his six ones, I’ve found his ‘intoxicating entertainment’ (GR synopsis) amazing and worth spending my time. Like I said somewhere, I started by reading its brief synopsis as an essential overview as well as the one from Wikipedia at https://en.wikip Since some years ago I’ve tried to read this seemingly readable “Travels With My Aunt” but it’s a pity I could read no more than 8-10 pages and left it on its stack, more than once. So last month I decided to read it hoping to enjoy this fiction like his six ones, I’ve found his ‘intoxicating entertainment’ (GR synopsis) amazing and worth spending my time. Like I said somewhere, I started by reading its brief synopsis as an essential overview as well as the one from Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travels... for more detail. The story is about a middle-aged retired bank manager named Henry Pulling, he has just met Aunt Augusta for the first time in fifty years at his mother's funeral. His aunt, in her seventies, is a formidable character fond of Henry and action, she simply plans her itinerary abroad with a bit of adventure in mind, rather than mope and stay home; therefore, Henry has no choice but follows her plan by keeping going and solving problems from some unexpected plights or weird people along the way. Surprisingly, I found reading this reluctantly long-awaited book inimitably hilarious with wonderful dialogs, fantastic plot, unthinkable climax, etc. Moreover, each reasonably manageable length of each chapter is not too tedious for us as his admirers or newcomers. There are 20 chapters in Part One and only 8 in Part Two; we may call such a chapter as a numerical one because we see only Numbers 1 (4+pages), 2 (3+), 3 (8), …. 20 (6+) and Numbers 1 (10+pages), 2 (4), 3 (11), … 8 (8). Once in a while, I have sometime found some words used in the right context and wondered if this is one of the ways in which Greene has told us that he regards writing some of his novels as a sort of 'entertainment' that implies reading entertainment for us as well, for example: 1. It was a sad occasion without Sir Alfred, who had been a very jovial man, laughing immoderately even at his own jokes. (p. 22) 2. 'How was the mowing-machine by the way?' 'Very wet, but no irreparable damage.' (p. 24) 3. 'I told Jo what the doctor said, and he mouthed a reply, I thought I made out, ''not good enough.'' (p. 56) 4. 'Does he speak English or French?' 'It is not likely.' I felt hopelessly abroad. (p. 91) 5. So I sat in the West Berlin Hotel shedding beery tears of self-pity and envying the men who danced with their arms round strangers' shoulders. (p. 124) If you notice something uniquely well-expressed in each item, you'd see the point and agree with me on the following: immoderately, irreparable, mouthed, hopelessly abroad, and beery. What do you think? Moreover, Greene has Wordsworth, a key character, speak his transcribed pidgin English which is of course literally amusing whenever we hear the typical dialog or we speak it mockingly. Try reading the extracts and you'd see why: 'Ýour auntie, Mr Pullen. She allays safe with old Wordsworth. Ar no cost her nothing. But she got a fellah now -- he cost her plenty plenty. And he too old for her, Mr Pullen. Your auntie no chicken. She need a young fellah.' 'You aren't exactly young yourself, Wordsworth.' 'Ar no got ma big feet in no tomb, Mr Pullen, lak that one. Ar no trust that fellah. ...' (p. 208) 'Who is this man she's with, Wordsworth?' 'I won spik his name. My tongue turn up if I spik his name. Oh, man, I bin faithful to your auntie long time now.' ... (p. 208) 'He was asking me about you. He saw us on shore.' 'What he look lak?' ... (p. 209) Incidentally, touched by his mention of 'Thailand' in this book rather than 'Siam' as found in his memoir, I think first it's a kind of honor to see him write/type our country to the world to see and probably those people unfamiliar with or rarely heard of our country may find out in a reference or at Wikipedia, and second it's due to its first publication in 1969 so 'Thailand' has been widely heard and more accepted in telecommunications, journalism, business, etc. internationally. The mention in question is as follows: 'You've been out here for six years?' 'No, but I was in Thailand before this.' 'Doing research?' 'Yeah. Sort of ...' ... (p. 204) Again, when I casually read this sentence, "The great gates had been cleaned of rust and flung open; the chandeliers sparkled in the sala, lights were turned on in even the empty room, ..." (p. 254) The word 'sala' (in italics) rang a bell and kept me wondering if it comes from a foreign or a Thai word ; so I tried Wiktionary and found two meanings: 1. From Spanish, from Germanic; ... A large hall or reception room. 2. Borrowing from Thai ศาลา (saa-la). An open pavilion in Thailand used as a meeting place or to shelter from the weather. [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sala] I have no further information on his 'sala' used in the sentence so it might have been from either one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mariel

    Travels with My Aunt was my first Graham Greene (films don't count! Or do they?) . I didn't know which to choose because I didn't have internet access at the time of the big moment. The jacket said it was the only book that Greene ever wrote for the fun of it. Maybe he had fun. I sure as heck didn't. Maybe it was the times (publication date is 1969) ... An old woman who proclaims way too loudly that she's having a great time to make her cliche of a stiff upper lip Englishman nephew feel more bef Travels with My Aunt was my first Graham Greene (films don't count! Or do they?) . I didn't know which to choose because I didn't have internet access at the time of the big moment. The jacket said it was the only book that Greene ever wrote for the fun of it. Maybe he had fun. I sure as heck didn't. Maybe it was the times (publication date is 1969) ... An old woman who proclaims way too loudly that she's having a great time to make her cliche of a stiff upper lip Englishman nephew feel more befuddled than Hugh Grant at the height of his befuddled niche as the go-to guy for befuddled Englishmen in postcard English life films. Maybe I'm in a bad mood and this was funny in 1969. I thought that it was trying too hard to have fun. Henry didn't know how to have fun and Aunt Augusta is the aging bar slut who brags about what a crazy wild night she had fifteen years ago. I can't stand that type. Have fun while you are having it. No, I don't want to see photos of you getting drunk last week on your myspace or facebook. I was sooooo bored. I didn't care about anything that happened. Their travels were more boring than the most boring part of travels (the traveling part and not the getting somewhere part). There's a tacked on murder that came too late to be interesting. By that time I was desperate for the book to be over. Then he gets together with a flipping fifteen year old and they read religious passages from Browning. Why go through all of that just to creep me out? If he was dissatisfied with his life why not learn about women by hanging out with one who is not in her seventies and related to him? How come Aunt Augusta liked to talk about having fun so much? Talk, talk, talk. Could Greene have been having that much fun if he wanted to fit in so badly? All of those drugs and swinging parties? The Coleridge joke about the manservant Wordsworth was also painfully obvious. Okay, now that I've read Pnin by Nabokov that has a complimentary quote by Greene on the book jacket I feel guilty trashing this book. It's kinda sad to try desperately to have fun and not be in on the joke. That doesn't mean I don't find the memory of this book boring as waiting (I hate waiting). At least it makes the whole process seem like an exercise in fun and less than preachy Aunt Augusta and her high wheeling life. Like documentaries about free love, you know?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    I thought this book would be a non-fiction travelogue of driving around Europe with Graham Greene and an aunt of his. Wrong. It is a fictitious account of Henry Pulling a never-married bachelor in his fifties whose greatest adventure has been creating accounts for wealthy clients at his bank. He has now retired and enjoys quiet days cultivating his precious dahlias. Then his aunt arrives on the scene. It starts at the funeral of his mother. While Pulling is sitting there in the crematorium funeral I thought this book would be a non-fiction travelogue of driving around Europe with Graham Greene and an aunt of his. Wrong. It is a fictitious account of Henry Pulling a never-married bachelor in his fifties whose greatest adventure has been creating accounts for wealthy clients at his bank. He has now retired and enjoys quiet days cultivating his precious dahlias. Then his aunt arrives on the scene. It starts at the funeral of his mother. While Pulling is sitting there in the crematorium funeral parlor considering his mother's life and also his father's he hears a voice behind him say, "I once attended a premature cremation." Thus is his introduction to his Aunt Augusta, his mother's sister. With no more introduction than that, Henry finds himself sucked into the drama of this aunt he has never before met. The second thing she informs him of (the first being the crematorium incident; as a child she accidentally pushed a button which set the coffin off, but luckily when the others arrived for the service, no one realized the body was no longer there) is that his mother was not his biological mother she was just the person who married his father (who was his biological father) and raised him as his own. The story then proceeds to bounce back between hilarity and absurdity. Aunt Augusta is quite a woman. Or a trollope, depending on your point of view. She has known quite a few men in her seventy odd years and is not slowing down any time soon. She is currently living with a man, Wordsworth, from an African country-quite shocking since this was published in 1970- and he's half her age. But before Wordsworth, she lived in Paris with a married man, and before that in Istanbul with a general Abdul and before that with an Italian Visconti and I almost forgot Currin, the priest of the Dog church back in a small English town. Pulling just wants to stay home with his dahlias but Aunt Augusta propels him across Europe because, it turns out, she is smuggling money and needs his help. He helps but not intentionally. Only later does he find out what she's carrying in all those heavy suitcases. Greene is a brilliant writer and very, very witty. But he also demonstrates how evil looks interesting in fiction when it is actually boring in real life. We find out that Aunt Augusta has all these lovers because she financially supplies them with her wealth. She's not stupid. She knows that is why they love her and when her money runs out, they leave her. She loves them all the more for that. She tells her nephew that she could not love a man who loved her back. Emotional need is too much of a claim on one's soul. It reminds me of the socially awkward kid at school who tries to buy friends with his lunch money. How is one exactly satisfied with that? The whole thing seems a sham. But that is not how Greene presents it. Aunt Augusta is the exciting one. Pulling is the boring one because he wants a normal secure life. Aunt Augusta breaks a lot of laws for the sake of her lovers and she finally ends up in Paraguay back with Visconti whom we're supposed to believe is the real love of her life. Well, as long as that smuggling business stays profitable. Another thing. The woman who raised Pulling is presented as a narrow-minded prig of a person and it turns out that SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! Aunt Augusta is not really is aunt, but rather his mother. This is never explicitly stated but we're to gather that from the clues strewn throughout the story. Excuse me, but I have to applaud the woman who raised Henry, not the woman who deserted him to traipse across the world buying criminally-minded men's love. But I suppose we're not really supposed to take any of it seriously. In which case it is nothing more than a well-written silly story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Somehow I thought this book was going to be a lighthearted romp. Funny it was, but in a sad, meditative way as Henry Pulling comes under the influence of his Aunt Augusta Bertram. I should have known better: Graham Greene is not the romping type. That takes a particular kind of character, one which does not look at life with the calm grey eyes of the author of The Heart of the Matter and The Burnt-Out Case. Travels With My Aunt is a delightful book -- one that could easily have gone off in severa Somehow I thought this book was going to be a lighthearted romp. Funny it was, but in a sad, meditative way as Henry Pulling comes under the influence of his Aunt Augusta Bertram. I should have known better: Graham Greene is not the romping type. That takes a particular kind of character, one which does not look at life with the calm grey eyes of the author of The Heart of the Matter and The Burnt-Out Case. Travels With My Aunt is a delightful book -- one that could easily have gone off in several other directions. But it didn't: With his aunt, Henry has found a family to replace the one he lost; and, with her, he has found the attractive teenage daughter of a Paraguayan customs official. I like to remember the late Mr Pottifer's idea of immortality:I think the reason lay partly in his idea of immortality, but I think too it belonged to his war against the Inland Revenue. He was a great believer in delaying tactics. "Never answer all their questions," he would say. "Make them write again. And be ambiguous. You can always decide what you mean later according to circumstances. The bigger the file the bigger the work. Personnel frequently change. A newcomer has to start looking at the file from the beginning. Office space is limited. In the end it's easier for them to give in."The way that Greene plants the Pottifer story in the novel gives it a unique significance. Check it out when you read the book: I don't want to give the author's secret away. I have too much respect for him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Definitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean? Of course I chuckled at lines like these: "You will never persuade a mouse that a black cat is lucky." (chapter 5) or "I had such a good memory.......once!" (chapter 6) or "I have never planned anything illegal in my life! How could I plan anything of the kind, when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?!" (chapter 7) or "A little honest thieving hurts no one." And then, "It was all very harmless and gave emp Definitely funny.....but maybe too funny? Do you know what I mean? Of course I chuckled at lines like these: "You will never persuade a mouse that a black cat is lucky." (chapter 5) or "I had such a good memory.......once!" (chapter 6) or "I have never planned anything illegal in my life! How could I plan anything of the kind, when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?!" (chapter 7) or "A little honest thieving hurts no one." And then, "It was all very harmless and gave employment to many."(chap 8) Have you noted how the statements get more and more criminal in tone? Can Graham Greene write a book without turning it into a mystery or a crime novel? (view spoiler)[Interpol, smuggling, art theft and counterfeit are on display here! (hide spoiler)] . What exactly is the relationship between Aunt Augusta and her nephew, Henry? It helps to enjoy crime mystery novels. Here you get an amusing spoof. Back to the humor. I read somewhere that Graham Greene wrote this, his sole purpose being to compose a f-u-n-n-y book. The humor changes as the book proceeds. It becomes sharper, more satirical. Politics, sex, religion and human behavior are often the brunt of the joke. I would like to give you a feel for the humor because what appeals to one will be dishwater to another.... and yet I fear that you have to know the characters to understand the message conveyed. On sex, Aunt Augusta declares, keep in mind she is in her seventies, "I have always preferred an occasional orgie to a nightly routine." Or, if you are annoyed at your kids, this line might speak to you, "They go away from you. You can't go away from them." The lines are clever and funny, and certainly I chuckled often, but it is exactly that that I cannot deal with. I cannot read a joke book from start to finish. Have you noted that I have shelved this book in many different countries? The book is about travel and all the countries where I have shelved it are visited.....but you neither see nor smell nor experience the different couture of the lands visited. You get a teeny bit about Paraguay. The two, aunt and nephew, travel on the Oriental Express. So much more could have been done with that! This is a book of humor. The narrator of the audiobook, Tim Pigott-Smith, did an absolutely marvelous job of revealing that humor. He uses different intonations for the different characters in a wonderful way. Five stars for the narration. Please keep in mind that you may totally love this book even if it was not a good fit for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    "I found myself to be a ghost returning home, transparent as water. Curran was more alive than I was. I was almost surprised to see that my image was visible in the glass." So says Henry Pulling, a retired English bank manager who has lived life so prudently, safely, carefully and boringly that he comes to realize that he has left no consequential living memory in anyone he's ever met. His favorite thing in all the world is tending to his dahlia flower garden and reading dusty volumes of Wordswor "I found myself to be a ghost returning home, transparent as water. Curran was more alive than I was. I was almost surprised to see that my image was visible in the glass." So says Henry Pulling, a retired English bank manager who has lived life so prudently, safely, carefully and boringly that he comes to realize that he has left no consequential living memory in anyone he's ever met. His favorite thing in all the world is tending to his dahlia flower garden and reading dusty volumes of Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott. When his mother dies, Pulling is suddenly clued in to a lot of realities about who he really is and what his family was really up to, thanks to a long-absent ebulliant aunt, Augusta, who brings Henry up to speed on a good number of the facts of life that the naive naif nephew seems to have missed. Aunt Augusta herself has been long absent because she's been spending her life traveling Europe, living and loving and losing with brio, and becoming entangled in romances and petty criminality, some of which may be fancifully embellished in the retelling to Henry. She whisks Henry off on various travels, and during their course, dull Henry starts to regret the wasted opportunities of his life. Greene generally classed his books broadly into two categories: serious novels and what he coined "entertainments." This one blends elements of both, weaving an eccentric whimsical tale with dark undertones into a typical Greene story of Anglos entwined in espionage, smuggling and foreign intrigue in Third World countries. One thing that's always interesting about Greene's novels is the timelessness of his political observations; nothing much changes even if the surface issues and names do. There's even a fictional shell corporation mentioned that sounds prophetically like Enron. As usual, Greene casts a bemused observational eye on the strange bedfellows borne of corruption and amorphous morality operating within systems, politics, ideologies. As usual, Catholicism (and other religions) enter the mix and come in for genteel digs. Though this book might be considered lightweight and trivial Greene to some degree, it accumulates in relevance as it proceeds, building a palpable gravitas. The book is very meticulous and slow; some might rebel in the face of its sometimes Jamesian precision of descriptive detail. The book plods a bit and seems to not have a plot, but there is one; it's just not rushed and is always hinted at with tiny clues along the way. The main point of the book, though, is about how people choose to live their lives, and it's that point of contrast that Greene explores in themes and variations. In some ways, it seems almost too simplistic to make the contrast with such obviously diametrically opposed characters; Pulling does seem too boring to be real. But as it proceeds his character takes on dimension, and the contrast between he and his Aunt provide much food for thought. Aunt Augusta, like Henry, is a literary construct, no doubt, but she's a fun one, speaking the Queen's English but letting shocking (to Henry) revelations pour from her seemingly proper old tongue. The humor and situations at the outset of the book seem fidgety and forced, one senses Greene trying to outdo Waugh and Wodehouse and failing, but eventually the charms emerge and there are a few genuine laughs and crazy situations and characters, such as the cremation urn used for drug smuggling and the CIA man who keeps a meticulous daily diary of his urine output. This novel's parts are better than the whole, and I have to admit that I found this to be my least favorite Greene book thus far (*2011 addendum: I would now say Loser Takes All is my least favorite GG). Yet, I think it's a better book than I'm giving it credit for; it covers a lot of ground and at the end is quite poetic. There's a major revelation in the last pages that was telegraphed long before and that's how I'd already suspected that that's where the book was going. The novel is a bit of an oddity and will not be everyone's cup of tea and it's definitely NOT the place to start to engage the work of Graham Greene, but readers familiar with his motifs and style will find it strong on observation, occasionally delightful and a worthwhile example of his eclectism.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Niloofar Masoomi

    سفرهایم با خاله جان داستانی پر شخصیت و خاکستری که چه یک هفته ای یا یک ماهه خونده بشه بعد از تموم شدنش براش دلتنگ می شی. داستان نه خیلی قوی اما از متوسط هم بالاتر بود. شخصیت ها توی داستان زیاد بودن که البته لطمه ای وارد نمیشد اما گاهی خواننده رو سردرگم می کرد. پایان کتاب هم غافلگیر کننده بود

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    Read years ago and it still stands out as very, very funny. So have added it to favourites.

  13. 4 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead

    'Does he speak English or French?' 'It is not likely.' I felt hopelessly abroad. The book is unequally divided in two parts, the first taking up most of it. I will have to separate them in my review, for they inspired very different feelings. The Good Stuff (about Part 1) "You must surrender yourself first to extravagance" - it is well written, as you expect a classic work of literature to be; - it was funny, even outrageous and surprising at times, in a way I didn't expect a classic work of liter 'Does he speak English or French?' 'It is not likely.' I felt hopelessly abroad. The book is unequally divided in two parts, the first taking up most of it. I will have to separate them in my review, for they inspired very different feelings. The Good Stuff (about Part 1) "You must surrender yourself first to extravagance" - it is well written, as you expect a classic work of literature to be; - it was funny, even outrageous and surprising at times, in a way I didn't expect a classic work of literature to be; - Aunt Augusta's character; - the message. "A long life is not a question of years. A man without memories might reach the age of a hundred and feel that his life had been a very brief one." "I was afraid of burglars and Indian thugs and snakes and fires and Jack the Ripper, when I should have been afraid of thirty years in a bank and a take-over bid and a premature retirement." "Travels with my Aunt" is a story of empowerment. It urges you shed boredom and just do stuff, go places. It inspires to question the sense of moral superiority which often comes with following the rules: "Perhaps a sense of morality is the sad compensation we learn to enjoy, like a remission for good conduct" I can't say I agree that is always the case, but it definitely is sometimes. We often choose to interpret our fear, laziness, inertia and perpetual boredom as moral superiority, loyalty and a will of iron, where there is none of that. Aunt Augusta's character in Part 1 can be summed up by these few lines: 'I hope you don't plan anything illegal.' 'I have never planned anything illegal in my life', Aunt Augusta said. 'How could I plan anything of the kind when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?' Aunt Augusta is a 75-y.o. lady and a spitfire. She is straightforward and honest, she loves life and she loves people. She is unashamed to state, that at her age, yes, she still falls in love and enjoys a sex life. I'm so used to seeing old people portrayed as either adorable-lost-featherhead knitting in the background, or as a cranky old fuck, or as a quintessence of faceless wisdom. Aunt Augusta is flesh and blood, and that was refreshing. Her honest, judgement-free view on other people around her was nice to read. She has her faults, for sure, but I agreed with Henry here: "Loyalty to a person inevitably entails loyalty to all the imperfections of a human being, even to the chicanery and immorality from which my aunt was not entirely free." The Bad Stuff (about Part 1) - it was slow at times, and I found myself zoning out; - Henry's character. Henry is best described here: "As I went upstairs to bed I felt myself to be a ghost returning home, transparent as water." He's over 55, doesn't have any friends, lovers, interests, skills or a job or anything at all in his life. The man has never been in a relationship (romantic or just close kinship), has never been excited about ANYTHING! He studied, and after graduation his mom found him a clerking job, which he held for over 30 years, now he has retired, and that's it! All he does is gardening and reading a few of the same books back to back over and over. I can't imagine someone really having such an empty life, such a total lack of personality, ambition, will. This story is supposed to be about his journey to becoming a real person, of his empowerment, but in fact he just continues with the same thing: "It was as though I had escaped from an open prison, had been snatched away, provided with a rope ladder and a waiting car, into my aunts world, the world of unexpected character and the unforeseen event" Again, he just goes with the drift of things, the drift being Aunt Augusta, he makes no decisions of his own, just, as always, follows along and pretends that's what he wants. The Good Stuff (about Part 2) None found. The Bad Stuff (about Part 2) **Spoilery** The first part wasn't exactly perfect, but it was good, but it all went to shit in Part 2. Aunt Augusta disappointed me so badly, it was as if her whole strength was eliminated. She is head over heels in love with this guy - they've been together before, in their youth. The man is described as "short and fat and bald" - I appreciate the fact that he wasn't an 80-y.o. with a six pack. YES, being old and not beautiful does not render you unlovable. So, she loves him. But he so obviously doesn't love her back, uses her, etc. And he's done it before. Their relationship years ago ended on him robbing her blind! "- So you gave him money the second time, Aunt Augusta? -Of course, what did you expect? He needed it." 'You have forgotten glasses.' I watched Aunt Augusta with fascination. I have never seen her taking orders from anyone before." DAFAQ?! Aunt Augusta is supposed to be this devil-may-care strong woman, femme fatale even, but in Part 2 she just loses all self-respect and allows herself to become a doormat. Although, to be fair, if we recall the stories she told about her romantic history with other guys - she has been there before, too. Like, with that married guy she loved, then found out she was his second mistress, then he dumped her, and she begged him to continue fucking her once a week, being third in line. UGH. The author seems to romanticize females being doormats: "Not many men have been so loved or have been forgiven so much." Um. Let's see. So they used to be together. He dumped her and robbed her of a fortune. She went on living, and then decades later she gets a letter from him, asking her to participate in illegal activity and giving him all the money she has. What does she do? Drops everything, travels half the world over to bring him everything in her teeth and virtually becomes his servant. WOW! And that is presented to us as an example of super-love, selflessness, kindness, forgiveness. Ahem. When someone robs you, then asks for more, and you give it - that's not forgiveness. The perpetrator didn't ask for forgiveness, doesn't think he did anything wrong at all, and you affirm that. UGHHHHH I was sooooooooooo riled by this whole storyline I was on the verge of screaming at my book. Aunt Augusta continues spewing evil bullshit: "I've never wanted a man who needed me, Henry" "I need a man who is untouchable. Two touchables together, what a terrible life they always make of it, two people suffering, afraid to speak, afraid to act, afraid of hurting. Life can be bearable when it's only one who suffers. It's easy to put up with your own suffering, but not someone else's. I'm not afraid of making Mr Visconti suffer. I wouldn't know how. I have a wonderful feeling of freedom. I can say what I like and it will never get under that thick dago skin of his" Okay, lady! Don't parade your emotional dependence on this guy as liberty. Oh, you're not afraid of offending him, because he doesn't care? Well, you can't make him happy either, for the same reason. Can't love a good guy, who loves you? That's your problem if you like pining after someone who doesn't give a fuck, but don't paint the rest of the world as a bunch of suffering people. Caring for one another is about HAPPINESS, not misery. It doesn't make one fearful or weak. You become stronger and you share that strength with the loved one. There were a few bullshitty details for which I don't understand the purpose in this book. Like the illiterate servant who perfectly forged a valuable painting and put his initials on it. Henry meeting O'Toole in Paraguay - who is a CIA agent and the father of Tooley - the girl they briefly met on a train in Europe. Like, how likely is that? I would have bought it if Tooley was sorta spying on them... But no. Supposedly, it was pure coincidence. And O'Toole believes they were friends - for no reason whatsoever. The predictable twist that Augusta is actually Henry's mom, not aunt. Totally saw it coming. By the end of the book there appeared bizarre poetry quotations on virtually every page. I didn't get them, their purpose there, it was just stupid. The worst was the conclusion to it all. Henry becomes the henchman of the guy Augusta "loves". Again, none of that is his decision, so the supposed emancipation is a total failure. As always, Henry just goes where others take him. So he smuggles drugs for that guy. That's presented as liberation. And he becomes engaged to a 14-year old girl, to marry her at the age of 16. He's close to 60 at that point! And the book takes place somewhere around 1960s, so it's not like it was normal at the time. DAFAQ?! Why do books about personal liberation have to create a conflict between law and freedom? The opposite of boredom is interest. You don't need to participate in an orgy to be an interesting person. You don't need to turn an aging bank clerk into a drug smuggler! Just give him a few hobbies, a friend, let him take responsibility for his own life, be an active participant in it, not a log being hurled downstream in a river. UGHHH

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    'Tis better to travel hopefully... When middle-aged Henry Pulling attends the cremation of his mother, he meets his mother's sister, Aunt Augusta, a woman he knows only from old family photographs. It seems Aunt Augusta was something of the black sheep of the family, her distinctly racy and unconventional lifestyle making her unwelcome. But Henry finds himself drawn towards her, her frank stories of a life full of incident providing a contrast to his own rather dull and lonely existence as a reti 'Tis better to travel hopefully... When middle-aged Henry Pulling attends the cremation of his mother, he meets his mother's sister, Aunt Augusta, a woman he knows only from old family photographs. It seems Aunt Augusta was something of the black sheep of the family, her distinctly racy and unconventional lifestyle making her unwelcome. But Henry finds himself drawn towards her, her frank stories of a life full of incident providing a contrast to his own rather dull and lonely existence as a retired bank manager in the respectable little community of Southwood. And soon Augusta entices Henry to join her on some of her journeys, first on the Orient Express to Istanbul and later to South America. This is a gentle little comedy without any of the profundity of Greene's major works but still with a certain amount of charm. Published in 1969, at a time when Greene was in his mid-60s, it does rather read like a tolerant older man's view of the 'permissive' society of the '60s, with its focus on 'free love' and incessant pot-smoking. However, through Aunt Augusta's stories, we are also taken on a light trip back through the century, though her storytelling technique makes it hard to pin down the truth of any event she is describing. From running a church for dogs in Brighton to her rather seedy career in France, from possibly having something to do with the Resistance to consorting with Nazi war criminals, Augusta's exuberant zest for life manages somehow to overcome Henry's normal repugnance for anything not quite respectable. The lesson he must learn from Augusta is the simple one that there is a difference between the tedium of merely existing and the joy of experiencing life. I went restlessly out and crossed the little garden where an American couple (from the St James or the Albany) were having tea. One of them was raising a little bag, like a drowned animal, from his cup at the end of a cord. At that distressing sight I felt very far away from England, and it was with a pang that I realized how much I was likely to miss Southwood and the dahlias in the company of Aunt Augusta. The writing is, of course, excellent, especially the stories of their travels and the various places they pass through. It's not a travelogue, so there are no tourist brochure style descriptions – instead, it's a vague, impressionistic picture of the process of travelling and the places passed by as seen through Henry's untutored, and often uninterested, eye. The reader is more likely to be told about the availability of ham sandwiches than the great architecture of a given town. This changes a little when they head off to South America – in this section, we begin to get a much clearer picture both of the natural world and the strange and rather corrupt society Henry finds himself sucked into. When a train pulls into a great city I am reminded of the closing moments of an overture. All the rural and urban themes of our long journey were picked up again: a factory was followed by a meadow, a patch of autostrada by a country road, a gas-works by a modern church: the houses began to tread on each other's heels, advertisements for Fiat cars swarmed closer together, the conductor who had brought breakfast passed, working intensely down the corridor to rouse some important passenger, the last fields were squeezed out and at last there were only houses, houses, houses, and Milano, flashed the signs, Milano. The humour runs at a consistently gentle level throughout, never becoming riotously funny, but never getting lost either. Unfortunately a good deal of the humour is centred on Aunt Augusta's younger lover, Wordsworth, a man from Sierra Leone, and to modern eyes his portrayal feels horribly stereotyped at best and somewhat racist at worst. In fact, given Greene's age and the time of writing, Wordsworth is actually rather affectionately portrayed – indeed, he's about the only likeable character, the only one with a true, warm and generous heart. But still, I found some of the dialect and his rather childish naivety made for pretty uncomfortable reading in places. Otherwise, however, the contrast between Henry's buttoned-up mentality and Augusta's free-wheeling acceptance of all life has to offer gives plenty of opportunity for Greene to quietly mock the society of the time. The vicar was saying clearly, while the congregation buzzed ambiguously to disguise the fact that they had forgotten the words: “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, have committed...” I noticed that the detective-sergeant, perhaps from professional prudence, did not join in this plea of guilty. “We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings...” I had never before noticed how the prayer sounded like the words of an old lag addressing the Bench with a plea for mercy. The presence of Detective Sergeant Sparrow seemed to alter the whole tone of the service. This would not be the book I would recommend to people wanting to sample Greene for the first time. Much better to try one of his more serious novels where the depth of the subject matter tends to withstand dating a little better. In truth, I think profundity suits his style better than humour. But, overall, I found this a pleasurable if rather light read – one where the journey is more enjoyable perhaps than the destination. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I have mixed feelings about this book--it was recommended to me highly by a friend, and I could totally see why: Greene is a master of his prose (check out the opening lines) and there were brilliant chapters in the novel. The characters were great--this is an example of how if you can write great characters, a reader will stay loyal to your novel out of a pure desire to follow them for hundreds of pages. But the plot was sort of lacking (I skipped entire chapters out of impatience with the slow I have mixed feelings about this book--it was recommended to me highly by a friend, and I could totally see why: Greene is a master of his prose (check out the opening lines) and there were brilliant chapters in the novel. The characters were great--this is an example of how if you can write great characters, a reader will stay loyal to your novel out of a pure desire to follow them for hundreds of pages. But the plot was sort of lacking (I skipped entire chapters out of impatience with the slowgoing plot and was able to move forward without being lost). And there were coincidences galore (one character pops up at the most convenient moments only to exit very conveniently as well...and people are coincidentally related to each other--and I won't reveal who/how). But still worth a read, though not Greene's best--this is an example of how brilliant prose and great characters can overcome shortcomings (like an overabundance of convenient coincidences). The best line in the book: "I felt hopelessly abroad." Opening lines: "I met my Aunt August for the first time in more than half a century at my mother's funeral. My mother was approaching eighty-six when she died, and my aunt was some eleven or twelve years younger. I had retired from the bank two years before with an adequate pension and a silver handshake. There had been a take-over by the Westminster and my branch was considered redundant. Everyone thought me lucky, but I found it difficult to occupy my time. I have never married, I have always lived quietly, and, apart from my interest in dahlias, I have no hobby. For those reasons I found myself agreeably excited by my mother's funeral."

  16. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. It is sublime and it is subversive, and the dialogue between Aunt Augusta and Henry actually reminds me of some conversations I have had with my great-uncle, whose stories have influenced me in a similar way that Henry has been affected by his Aunt – except, of course, that neither of has been involved in smuggling, founding religious groups, or “the stage”... well, at least not that I know of. I should give him a ring again soon. Having read Th I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. It is sublime and it is subversive, and the dialogue between Aunt Augusta and Henry actually reminds me of some conversations I have had with my great-uncle, whose stories have influenced me in a similar way that Henry has been affected by his Aunt – except, of course, that neither of has been involved in smuggling, founding religious groups, or “the stage”... well, at least not that I know of. I should give him a ring again soon. Having read The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, I am glad though that this is not the first of Greene’s novels I turned to, as Travels With My Aunt seems to be quite different. It’s Our Man in Havana next for me to delve into his spy novels.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I wasn't sure what to make of this novel at first. I was set to give it 2 stars, but after the tedium of Aunt Augusta's stories (she's highly offended when Henry, pleading tiredness, doesn't want to listen to one of her stories at the moment, but I understood completely!) has passed into the background, the story picked up considerably and I was able to go with its flow. This is a 'comic' (in both senses of the word) novel and it works as such -- it's just not a favorite genre of mine. It's as we I wasn't sure what to make of this novel at first. I was set to give it 2 stars, but after the tedium of Aunt Augusta's stories (she's highly offended when Henry, pleading tiredness, doesn't want to listen to one of her stories at the moment, but I understood completely!) has passed into the background, the story picked up considerably and I was able to go with its flow. This is a 'comic' (in both senses of the word) novel and it works as such -- it's just not a favorite genre of mine. It's as well-written as any Greene novel, though different from any I've read. And though comic, it's not light. Serious themes lurk beneath, as you'd also expect from Greene; and as with The Human Factor, the last Greene I'd read, and though for a very different reason, patience was required.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anatoly

    Well, this one did not work for me at all. I can understand it`s appeal to other readers but I never really got hooked and I can`t really put my finger on the reason why. Well, this one did not work for me at all. I can understand it`s appeal to other readers but I never really got hooked and I can`t really put my finger on the reason why.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Henry Pulling is just a little bit dull. He has taken early retirement from the bank, where he was manager, he has never married, and leads a quiet and uninteresting life pottering in the garden and tending his dahlias. At his mother’s funeral he meets her sister, Augusta, again for the first time in 50 years, and she tells him that the lady he considered to be his mother was actually not. He travels back to her home and meets Wordsworth, a man from Sierra Leone and who is his Aunt’s confident a Henry Pulling is just a little bit dull. He has taken early retirement from the bank, where he was manager, he has never married, and leads a quiet and uninteresting life pottering in the garden and tending his dahlias. At his mother’s funeral he meets her sister, Augusta, again for the first time in 50 years, and she tells him that the lady he considered to be his mother was actually not. He travels back to her home and meets Wordsworth, a man from Sierra Leone and who is his Aunt’s confident and lover, after several drink he returns home. Soon after the police come round asking to see what is in the urn, he explains it is his mothers ashes, but they take it from him for sampling. His aunt persuades him to join her on a trip to Brighton, as she feels that he needs to travel more, something that a psychic predicts will happen as well. Turns out that the urn with his mothers ashes had drugs added, probably by Wordsworth, who has now disappeared. Henry decides to join his aunt on a trip to Paris, and then onto Istanbul on the Orient Express. The journey is relatively uneventful, but Henry does meet a young lady called Tolley who he develops a friendship with. Very soon after they arrive in Istanbul, they are both approached by the police and questioned. Henery is starting to learn that he Aunt is not always the conventional type, and seems to have had many dodgy dealings and associations. They are soon deported back to the UK. Back in the UK, Henry returns to his dahlias, but it now doesn’t have the same appeal. The police are asking more question about his aunt too, and one of her former associates, but she has vanished of the face of the earth. Until one day he receives a letter asking him to come to South America, so he sets off to join her once again. It was quite an enjoyable read. Green has managed to blend a mystery story with travel, a dash of thriller with a healthy dollop of classic British farce. The characters are not particularly deep, but you do see Henry develop from the staid, and serious bank manager to a free spirited man. It was very readable too; Green has a way of pacing the story so you don’t get bored. It was a touch predictable, but entertaining nonetheless.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emanuel

    Este livro deveria ter um aviso na capa alertando o leitor para os perigos do seu sentido de humor. Sem estar de sobreaviso fui olhado por certo como um pobre ser descompensado enquanto em público não conseguia conter as gargalhadas, ainda que não sonoras, provocavam uma espécie de ataque convulsivo ao qual alguns não ficaram indiferentes. Henry está no funeral da sua mãe quando conhece a sua tia Augusta, e longe está de perceber como esta mulher em breve mudará a sua vida de pernas para o ar. D Este livro deveria ter um aviso na capa alertando o leitor para os perigos do seu sentido de humor. Sem estar de sobreaviso fui olhado por certo como um pobre ser descompensado enquanto em público não conseguia conter as gargalhadas, ainda que não sonoras, provocavam uma espécie de ataque convulsivo ao qual alguns não ficaram indiferentes. Henry está no funeral da sua mãe quando conhece a sua tia Augusta, e longe está de perceber como esta mulher em breve mudará a sua vida de pernas para o ar. Despretensioso, divertido, bem escrito. Divertido, já disse? One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings: it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand. Even if we have the happy chance to fall in love, it is because we have been conditioned by what we have read, and if I had never known love at all, perhaps it was because my father's library had not contained the right books.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    Travels With My Aunt tells the story of a retired bank manager, Henry Pulling, whose dull suburban life is forever changed by his elderly Aunt Augusta, who convinces him to come travelling with her. A riotous romp across Europe and later South America ensues, but as the story progresses the belly laughs and hilarious moments give way to increasingly darker undertones. At its core, the book poses an intriguing question: what is it to lead a good life? Is excitement and adventure better than leadin Travels With My Aunt tells the story of a retired bank manager, Henry Pulling, whose dull suburban life is forever changed by his elderly Aunt Augusta, who convinces him to come travelling with her. A riotous romp across Europe and later South America ensues, but as the story progresses the belly laughs and hilarious moments give way to increasingly darker undertones. At its core, the book poses an intriguing question: what is it to lead a good life? Is excitement and adventure better than leading a quiet, settled existence? And to what extent should we broaden our horizons — or toe the line? Is it ever okay to flout the law? Or hook up with a Nazi war criminal? To read my review in full, please visit my blog.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    Henry Pulling is a recently retired bank manager. He was offered an arrangement after many years of devoted service when his bank was taken over by another. He is looking forward to spending more time with the dahlias that are his pride and joy, and also rubbing shoulders with his former customers in Southwood, an unremarkable London suburb that seems to be populated entirely by retired officers from the armed forces. He mentions Omo quite a lot and is vaguely embarrassed by the fact that he sha Henry Pulling is a recently retired bank manager. He was offered an arrangement after many years of devoted service when his bank was taken over by another. He is looking forward to spending more time with the dahlias that are his pride and joy, and also rubbing shoulders with his former customers in Southwood, an unremarkable London suburb that seems to be populated entirely by retired officers from the armed forces. He mentions Omo quite a lot and is vaguely embarrassed by the fact that he shares initials with a well known brand of sauce. And then he meets his long lost aunt, Agatha Bertram. Henry’s mother has just died. His father died forty years before. He never really knew the father and his relationship with his mother was perennially tense. After the funeral, Agatha takes him on one side and calmly informs him that his father was something of a rogue and that his “mother” was really his step-mother, his true biological mother being one of his father’s bits on the side. Henry Pulling finds himself attracted to his aunt, not because she is something of an eccentric, unpredictable old bird, but also because she retains, somewhere, the secret of his own origins. When she suggests they travel together, he eagerly accompanies, despite the fact that he has never been one for straying far from the nest. Graham Greene has Henry and Aunt Agatha travel as far afield as Brighton, Istanbul and South America. Together, via stories from Aunt Agatha’s past, they relive the first half of the twentieth century, from late Victorian roots to 1960s drug culture, from fascism to dictators, from war to peace. Throughout, Henry Pulling comes across as a genial, predictable gent in his late fifties, whilst Aunt Agatha seems to be a confirmed member of Hell’s Grannies. Europe – the world even – seems to be littered with her conquests, with hardly a country passing by without some faded memory of hers coming back to life. As it unfolds, Travels With My Aunt reveals itself as a true masterpiece of twentieth century fiction. The characters really do live through the century’s history, but the events are never pressed onto the surface of their lives. On the contrary, they are entwined within the fabric of Aunt Agatha’s being, a character whose complexity unfolds as the story progresses. Throughout Henry Pulling is a truly comic character. He seems out of his depth, naïve, a product of an over-protected suburban existence, over-burdened with the assumptions of his upbringing. But he comes into his own and eventually it is no surprise when he describes his new life, which is almost as far removed from a suburban bank manager’s office as it is possible to get. And, of course, the story’s denouement, when it arrives, is also no surprise. And is not less because of that. There are many laughs along the way, not least as a result of Henry’s being constantly taken aback by his aunt’s bluntness and lust for life. Particularly memorable, however, were scenes where Henry put his personal foot in it. On Paraguay’s national day, he carries a red scarf on his aunt’s advice so he can show allegiance to the ruling party and the dictator. He just happens to be outside the military and political headquarters when he sneezes and uses the scarf as a hankie. A nearby soldier records the snotting into the national emblem as deeply insulting and irreverent, duly beats him up and slaps him in jail. Situation comedy at its best. Travels With My Aunt is quite simply a must read and must re-read book. Graham Greene’s immense skill provides a simplicity of style and construction to communicate a complex plot alongside powerful characterisation, and all this accomplished with true but elegant economy. It is a beautifully crafted book, expertly written, full of surprises and humour, all set against a deadly serious plot: surely a masterpiece.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Travels With My Aunt Aunt Augusta (Miss Bertram) Henry Pulling (Mr. Pullen) Wordsworth (Zachary) Sir Alfred Keene Miss Barbara Keene (Sir Alfred's daughter) Detective-Sergeant John Sparrow Hatty Jo (bookmaker, Henry's uncle) Angelica (Henry's mother) Mr. Visconti Major Charge (Henry's neighbour) Tooley. Lucinda O'Toole (teenage girl on the Istanbul Train) James O'Toole's daughter General Abdul Colonel Hakim Miss Dorothy Patterson (Dolly) Monsieur Dambreuse Curren Richard Pulling (Henry's father) Charles Pottifer De Travels With My Aunt Aunt Augusta (Miss Bertram) Henry Pulling (Mr. Pullen) Wordsworth (Zachary) Sir Alfred Keene Miss Barbara Keene (Sir Alfred's daughter) Detective-Sergeant John Sparrow Hatty Jo (bookmaker, Henry's uncle) Angelica (Henry's mother) Mr. Visconti Major Charge (Henry's neighbour) Tooley. Lucinda O'Toole (teenage girl on the Istanbul Train) James O'Toole's daughter General Abdul Colonel Hakim Miss Dorothy Patterson (Dolly) Monsieur Dambreuse Curren Richard Pulling (Henry's father) Charles Pottifer Detective-Inspector Woodrow James O'Toole (Tooley's father, CIA) A pleasant, interesting, enjoyable, well told story set in the 1960's, with deft touches of humour in parts. There are some good quotes, like "People who like quotations love meaningless generalisations." Also, a sardonic observation, "I have never understood why Protestants object so much to the ideas of Darwin. Perhaps if he had concentrated on the evolution of sheep and goats he would have appealed to the religious sense." I always look out for the 'product placement' in a Graham Greene novel. In this case, the washing powder OMO gets a plug more than a few times. I can see why it was adapted to film. I must try and find it. Recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Avital

    This was my first Graham Greene's novel. Oh, the ashes. Anything funnier? I laughed so much with the wild aunt and her nerd nephew, I couldn't wait to read his other comedies. Naturally, I was disappointed with his following books, which goes to show how subjective is each reading. Anyway, I'm over it now, and loving his books.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager in his fifties, meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time since he was a baby, at his mother’s funeral. Before he knows where he is, this irrepressible aunt has lured him away from his beloved dahlias and involved him in shady dealings and journeys with ulterior motives, first to Brighton, then on the Orient Express to Istanbul. I thought this was hilarious, especially in the beginning. Aunt Augusta with her devoted lovers is a great character. The story gets Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager in his fifties, meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time since he was a baby, at his mother’s funeral. Before he knows where he is, this irrepressible aunt has lured him away from his beloved dahlias and involved him in shady dealings and journeys with ulterior motives, first to Brighton, then on the Orient Express to Istanbul. I thought this was hilarious, especially in the beginning. Aunt Augusta with her devoted lovers is a great character. The story gets a little lost towards the end, perhaps, but after all it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The other night at dinner I told a friend I was reading a book that I thought she would like. When I told her it was Graham Greene's Travels with my Aunt she was ebullient, while our other friend said, "I will never read another book by THAT man." The three of us had all read Journeys without Maps together. My fellow G. G. fan declared she must, just must read The Quiet American. I backed her up with acclaim for The Heart of the Matter, which I said was my favorite. When I started thinking thoug The other night at dinner I told a friend I was reading a book that I thought she would like. When I told her it was Graham Greene's Travels with my Aunt she was ebullient, while our other friend said, "I will never read another book by THAT man." The three of us had all read Journeys without Maps together. My fellow G. G. fan declared she must, just must read The Quiet American. I backed her up with acclaim for The Heart of the Matter, which I said was my favorite. When I started thinking though, I remembered The Third Man, and then Then End of the Affair. All are such very different books. A reader who writes Green off after one book is writing off several different writers. Unlike his contemporary, the other Green, Henry who was wildly original in his mode, but very consistent, Graham Greene has several modes. He acknowledged this when he said he wrote two kinds of books, "entertainments" and more serious literature. Travels falls, not squarely, but more so than not, in I the entertainment bracket. One characteristic which is obviously missing is guilt. Henry Pulling may have regrets, but they aren't for his misspent youth. Quite the otherwise. Attending his mother's funeral Pulling meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time. Augusta pulls Pulling into her rather dubious life. While he does not go kicking and screaming, there is a fair amount of hemming and hawing and worry about his dahlias. Since retiring as a bank manager, he has made weekly visits to his mother, dahlias and delivery dinners from Chicken the anchors of his world. Now he is in Istanbul, with his aunt, dealing with what? Smuggling? Nazi war criminals, Arab traders, Colonel Hakim, the head of the police. Returning to his mundane life turns out to not be the relief he expected. No one in Travels is a certain quantity, Henry Pulling included. Morals, mores, these are uncertain too. Is the misspent youth perhaps the one that was not misspent, but one of blindly following a path of conformity? This is the main theme of the book though the value of religion, the questionable role of the US and Britain in The Near East and South America, the nature of love and family are also explored. When I first heard of Travels, that would have been in the '70s, I imagined the aunt was likely to be a harmless eccentric, rather like the aunt in Towers of Trebizond. So wrong! With her collections of Venetian glass and pot smoking West African lover she seems so at first, but no. She isn't a lovable or admirable character, but still engaging and likable. While the characterization of Augusta and Henry are strong, other characters a bit too much of "characters." Also, some of the plot elements rely heavily on coincidence. This is not something that bothers me over much, though there are times that it caused me to grimace. Travels does not have the weight of Heart of the Matter, however, it is not a throw away entertainment either. Like much of Greene's books, it is ultimately, despite Augusta's corrupt optimism, vaguely sad. It's just not clear why.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roberto

    Lezione con la zia A volte accade qualcosa nella nostra vita che improvvisamente la divide in "prima" e "dopo". Per il protagonista di questo romanzo, Henry, già pensionato "nella mente", che conduce una vita monotona e in solitudine e che si occupa solo delle sue dalie in giardino, l'evento che scuote la sua esistenza è l'incontro con la vulcanica zia Augusta, settantacinquenne. La zia è capace di grandi passioni, a differenza di Henry. È acuta, spiritosa, anticonformista, libertina, generosa. Non Lezione con la zia A volte accade qualcosa nella nostra vita che improvvisamente la divide in "prima" e "dopo". Per il protagonista di questo romanzo, Henry, già pensionato "nella mente", che conduce una vita monotona e in solitudine e che si occupa solo delle sue dalie in giardino, l'evento che scuote la sua esistenza è l'incontro con la vulcanica zia Augusta, settantacinquenne. La zia è capace di grandi passioni, a differenza di Henry. È acuta, spiritosa, anticonformista, libertina, generosa. Non si nega nessun piacere e vive pienamente ogni istante. Nella vita di Henry entra come un uragano; e l'effetto che lascia è quello di una rivoluzione. Dal momento dell'incontro Henry inizia a seguire la zia in viaggi in giro per il mondo, a fare incontri strani, a vedere cose poco lecite, ma anche a riflettere sulla sua vita e a scoprire di non avere praticamente quasi vissuto, fino a quel momento. In fondo, per quanto strano, il mondo della zia è molto più allettante e interessante del suo. Il Greene di questo romanzo è molto diverso da quello che conoscevo, cupo, doloroso e attento soprattutto ai temi religiosi o esistenziali. In viaggio con la zia è un romanzo in cui Greene tenta di essere leggero e ironico, anche se il suo umorismo British, in certi momenti è più raggelante dell'azoto liquido. Il risultato è un libro che ho trovato esagerato, strampalato, poco credibile, poco appassionante, poco originale, banale, senza guizzi e assolutamente prevedibile. Le idee sono buone, ma straviste. E' solo un libro datato, mi sono chiesto? Non so, ma risale "solo" al 1969. In ogni caso mi sono accorto di preferire di gran lunga il Greene "serio". Volendo salvare qualcosa, posso trovare dei messaggi nel libro: la voglia di vivere è indipendente dall'età anagrafica, non bisogna rinunciare a quello che pensiamo possa renderci felici e dobbiamo vivere la nostra vita sempre e comunque, al massimo delle possibilità. Certo, ci potevo arrivare anche da solo... P.S. Una cosa che mi ha incuriosito è questa: nell'immaginario collettivo un uomo che svolazza di fiore in fiore a trent'anni è un simpatico libertino e a sessanta è uno squallido satiro. Una donna svolazzante invece a trent'anni è una mignotta, a sessanta è una ganza.... Mah!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carl R.

    A total departure from all others in the current list of Greenies I’ve been reading. It’s a, strangely believe it, comedy. And damned good. “I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother’s funeral” is the opener. Thus saith Henry Pulling, recently retired bank officer, dahlia cultivator, and all around stuffed shirt prude. Aunt Augusta, on the other hand, is a rip-snorting high liver with a criminal past and (as it turns out) future with a joie de vivre Henry can only dream of. The main A total departure from all others in the current list of Greenies I’ve been reading. It’s a, strangely believe it, comedy. And damned good. “I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time at my mother’s funeral” is the opener. Thus saith Henry Pulling, recently retired bank officer, dahlia cultivator, and all around stuffed shirt prude. Aunt Augusta, on the other hand, is a rip-snorting high liver with a criminal past and (as it turns out) future with a joie de vivre Henry can only dream of. The main comedy emerges from the straight arrow tendencies of Henry clashing with the free-for-all proclivities of his aunt. We spend a little more time in England on this one (as far as I know Brighton Rock is Greene’s only novel set entirely on the isle), but true to the title, we do get to France, Istanbul, Argentina, and, eventually Paraguay. Why Paraguay? Beats me. Ask Lily Tuck and Anne Enright whose The News From Paraguay and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, respectively, both garnered great reviews from hither and yon, including Writer Working. The travels, of course, comprise more than geographical dislocation, or it wouldn’t be Greene. Likewise the characters—a pot smoking daughter of a CIA operative, a pot-smuggling Sierra Leonean smitten beyond words with the much older (75) Augusta. Among others. This is not a fluffy Wodehouse, though the hi-jinks have some elements thereof. But there’s real pain and real danger amid the witty repartee. Not just disappointment and inconvenience. This was a surprise and a delight for moi. My admiration for the rather dour and super-religious author of all the other things I’ve commented on has increased enormously that he could also pull off something like this.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Inshirah Kamal

    "One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings: it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand. Even if we have the happy chance to fall in love, it is because we have been conditioned by what we have read...." The only part of the book I liked

  30. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    Slightly disappointing ending, but overall a lovely, thoughtful story. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

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