The Quiet American by Graham Greene is a bleak and sorrowful novel set in French colonial Vietnam in the 1950's. On assignment in Vietnam, Fowler is a British foreign correspondent reporting the progress of the fighting between several warring factions trying to take control of the government and throw out the French. Fowler's life is a mess as he is a middle aged, opium addicted atheist in love with a young and beautiful Vietnamese orphan girl named Phuong.
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She is not quite a prostitute; she is more of an escort looking for love. Her elder sister seeks to find her a suitable husband but in the process she has become a fallen woman. Joe Pyle is a young, idealistic, "quiet" American working for an economic development organization. He steals Phuong away from Fowler but winds up dead in the river. Fowler is suspected of the murder. He recalls memories of his "friend" Pyle whom he never really knew, reliving past events involving himself, Phuong and Pyle.
As a reporter Fowler is not allowed to report anything but military victories as he endures gruesome and disturbing facets of life during wartime in a third world country. French colonialism in Vietnam is a paradoxical and surreal world of formalities, proper manners, and class elitism in stark contrast to the daily grim realities of opium addiction, brothels, death, and destruction.
The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher