Sometimes when you read a book, other stuff around you effects how you view it. For me this was the case with Travels with my Aunt. I usually love Graham Greene as he is one of my favourite authors. But this book just didn’t strike the right note this time around. A major part of this was because at roughly the same time as I started reading this, I started watching The Killing on TV. Not the American re-make, the twenty hour Danish original.
The Killing is the TV equivalent of a page turner. It filled up just about every thought in my head and didn’t leave much room for anything else. It was on 4 days out of 7 every week but that wasn’t enough – I had to get hold of a copy of the entire series and see what happened next or else explode. The thought of waiting 3 more days to find out what happened next? Unthinkable. So you see, poor Travels With My Aunt didn’t really stand much of a chance up against that.
Where The Killing was fast paced and made my heart beat a thousand times a minute, Travels With My Aunt was incredibly English and very slow. It didn’t have so much as a plot, as it did amusing characters what with poor bumbling Henry and eccentric scandalous Aunt Augusta. The tone is light hearted and comical, not meant to be taken at all seriously. I recognised Greene’s humour and wit in the previous books of his I have read, but none of those could be correctly described as humorous.
It might be that I will simply prefer his more serious novels, like The Quiet American or The End of the Affair or it could be that I was entirely derailed by something more thrilling at the time of reading this. Either way, it’s hard to give this book an accurate review based on all this. I’ve probably rambled on about basically nothing at all to do with the book.
I still love and admire Greene’s writing, no matter what he writes about I will always enjoy his style and his realism. I don’t know how he does it, it’s one of those mysteries of good writing, but whatever he writes feels true without being at all wordy – or too minimal.
Aunt Augusta is quite hilarious. She pays no heed to English propriety or English law (or any other kind of law for that matter) and wants only to live life and enjoy it whilst she can. Henry on the other hand is quite scandalised, but as his journey through foreign lands proceeds, he finds his previous life drifting further and further behind.
There are various characters that pop up on the way. The countries they travel through are not quite so important as the act of travelling itself, and Aunt Augusta’s stories of her past experiences. The humour is very British and slightly absurd (a church for dogs?) which is generally the kind of humour I love best. (Being British and all.)
However by the second part I found myself getting rather too bored as it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. It floats about between Henry and his thoughts on his previous life as a bank manager, his dead father, his dahlias, and his growing fondness towards his Aunt. I just wanted something to happen, something of some significance but it never happened.
At the time I wanted to be punched in the gut, I wanted my intestines ripped out and my head sawn in half. None of this was happening with Travels With My Aunt. Instead I found myself skipping along an empty path.
A classic case of my reading mood taking a drastic change in the opposite direction I’m afraid. Oh well. Onwards and upwards, I suppose.
Read more of my reviews on my blog: The Book Coop