The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The Power and the Glory was hailed as Greene's greatest book but after reading it for a second time many years apart, I cannot for the life of me understand why. Green was a master of characterisation and plot. His single POV style and his sparse but hugely telling descriptions were legendary. This book by contrast, was written to a plan. He wished on the one hand to condemn the polital pogrom against Roman Catholic priests in Mexico and on the other to absolve himself of his own adultarous lifestyle which he always struggled with. He lived in 'sin' and was never divorced. If he had been a true Catholic he would have acknowledged that he had committed mortal sin and was not going straight to heaven. In my humble opinion, he does the same in The Heart of the Matter in which he also excuses mortal sin on the basis that Hell can't exist for such 'crimes'.
In this book, he writes well but one has the slight feeling he is trying too hard. When he wrote this book he rented a room in Central London and worked half a day on Power and the Glory and half a day on 'A Gun for Sale'. To do that he often took 'speed' to stay awake and switched on. For my money, A Gun for Sale is a more powerful book because it doesn't have its roots in a stale religious philosophy where he contrives to make a point.
All in all the eventual end of the book is a short curtain raiser for another priest who apears in the last two pages indicating that the Catholic faith cannot be wholly repressed in a place where the people want their religion.
The descriptive prose, as one might expect, is stunning and the flow of the story is beautiful. The Officer who pursues the 'little whisky priest' has more than one dimension and the priest himself is ambiguous with one foot in the camp of evil and sin, and the other in the world of duty as a priest.
Although I cannot recommend this book to someone who doesn't already love Graham Greene's work, for those who are already fans, it will engage and entertain and leave behind an aftertaste of ruminations on both good and evil as well as God versus atheism. It's an ambiguous premise however and I found most of his other books better entertainment.

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