The Captain and the Enemy

by Graham Greene

Back cover of Penguin Classics edition…   In Graham Greene’s final novel a secretive stranger takes Victor Baxter out of a boarding school much like that of Greene’s own youth. The “Captain” changes the boy’s name to Jim and brings him to London to serve as a surrogate son to a mysterious woman named Liza. Raised in odd, touching circumstances, Jim never comprehends the enduring relationship between the Captain and Liza, and he struggles to understand what love itself is. Although the novel than takes the Captain and Jim into seedy political intrigue in Panama and Nicaragua, it finally returns to the question of what the proofs of human love are. John Auchard’s introduction establishes links to Greene’s biography as it considers the places in the lost past where themes that preoccupy a character – or a novelist – had their flashes of genesis.

My first foray into Graham Greene. Different from what I usually read. No likable characters yet Greene pulls you into these characters immediately and you find yourself invested in them.

A sad tale really. Victor’s mother dies when he is young, he never has a chance to connect with her. His father, the Devil as he refers to him, sends him off to live with an aunt that never really gives him much affection. He is sent to boarding school where he is always an ‘Amalekite’, an outsider. One day a strange man, the Captain, shows up and removes him from school for the day with a letter from his father. He tells Victor that he won him fair and square in a game of backgammon. He takes him to London to live with Liza, a woman who lost her child and desperately longs for one. Victor will be the replacement. The Captain is in and out of their lives never staying long but always bringing and sending money to support them. Victor/Jim can never figure out the relationship between Liza and the Captain. His real father, the Devil, stops by several times and tells Jim he is better off there with Liza than the aunt, but in not an influence in his life at all. The Captain is the only ‘father’ he really knows.  Victor/Jim never really could figure out what love really is and couldn’t seem to connect to anyone. Lots of intrigue and adventure in the second half of the book in Panama during the time President Carter was working on the Panama Canal Treaty. Lots of shady things the Captain was involved in coming to light. Jim will have to make a decision whether to follow in his footsteps or make his own path in life.

This was a book on my TBR shelf and the 14th one I’ve read this summer for the 15 books of Summer challenge. One more to go!

Have you read Graham Greene and which one is your favorite by him? I have a couple more on my shelf.

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4 thoughts on “The Captain and the Enemy

  1. I’ve read a few of his books, most recently The Quiet American. and The Power and the Glory. I read Brighton Rock and Travels with my Aunt when at school. I really want to read The End of the Affair soon.

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  2. I’ve read THE END OF THE AFFAIR and MINISTRY OF FEAR. Meant to read more, but you know how it goes – so many books, yada yada yada. 🙂 Enjoyed your review. I’d never heard of this particular Graham Greene book.

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