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The Quiet American

Narrated by: Simon Cadell
Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China comes Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious 'Third Force'. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler finds it hard to stand and watch.
©1955 Graham Greene (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cameron
  • Caulfield Sth., Australia
  • 05-03-11

Brilliantly read, brilliantly poignant

The best audiobook narrators, PARTICULARLY in stories written in the 1st person such as this, walk that fine line of an engaging clear read and an actual PERFORMANCE that isn't distracting, or doesn't betray the text. And Simon Cadell's tired & cynical tone as Fowler is absolutely pitch perfect. 'The Quiet American' is a modern classic. You'll learn more about why Afghanistan & Iraq have become quagmires for us in the West by listening to Fowler & Pyle hiding out one night in a watch-tower in the Vietnamese jungle than you will listening to any pundit on cable TV :) Highly recommended.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ilana
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 09-24-12

Foreshadowed the US involvement in Vietnam

Thomas Fowler is a middle-aged British journalist who has been living in Saigon for a number of years to report on the French Indochina War. He's left behind a wife in England from whom he's been separated for a long time, though she refuses him a divorce on religious grounds. This shouldn't be a problem for his current lover, twenty-year-old Phuong, who doesn't ask for anything and is content to live with Fowler and prepare his opium pipes, but Phuong's older sister wants her to get married to secure her future. Then a young idealistic American called Alden Pyle appears on the scene, makes friends with Fowler, and also falls in love with Phuong and decides to ask her in marriage. When the novel opens, Pyle has been found murdered, and Fowler proceeds to recount his relationship with the young man and their conflicts, both political and personal, which have somehow led to the young man's death. I can't say I was taken with this novel. It's tone was very serious and it had quite a plodding pace. The love story, such as it was, was obviously on the forefront of the narrator's mind, but the real story was about the war and the conflict between the French colonists, the communists who wanted to oust them, and the foreigners who were either there to report the war and bent on not getting involved, like Fowler, or on the contrary, invested in bringing about change according to their own agenda, like Pyle. My own disinterest in politics is to blame for my lack of appreciation here, as I can objectively say it's a very good novel, but it didn't quite satisfy this reader.

This tidbit from wikipedia was quite interesting: "The book draws on Greene's experiences as a war correspondent for The Times and Le Figaro in French Indochina 1951-1954. He was apparently inspired to write The Quiet American in October 1951 while driving back to Saigon from the Ben Tre province. He was accompanied by an American aid worker who lectured him about finding a “third force in Vietnam”. Greene spent three years writing the novel, which foreshadowed US involvement in Vietnam long before it became publicly known. The book was the initial reason for Graham Greene being under constant surveillance by US intelligence agencies from the 1950s until his death in 1991, according to documents obtained in 2002 by The Guardian newspaper under the US Freedom of Information Act."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A truly great classic of English literature

Generally I prefer non-fiction, but came to this novel by reading that it received a lot of negative reviews in the US. That aroused my curiosity and I wasn't far into the book before it was abundantly clear why Greene and this book were unpopular in certain quarters. That apart, it is a great novel - Greene perfectly depicts the setting, and captures the atmosphere, the politics, the characters, and his command of language and cutting observations are simply superb. Men's attitudes towards women, especially Vietnamese women (as exemplified by Fowler and Phuong) and racism in general, strike a jarring note to the modern reader, but that's the way it was. Some have noted Greene's prescience with respect to the Vietnam war which was about to be unleashed, but it didn't take foresight or genius to work that out. Simon Cadell puts in a masterful performance. He has the exact voice and accent of a well-bred Englishman of the 1950s - he even sounds like Graham Greene. Not only is he a narrator par excellence, he knows French so his performance is not marred by mispronunciations.

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What insight Graham Greene has

Stuff happens, sometimes it is meaningful, other times just pedestrian, but what makes Graham Greene so good is his ability to get into his characters thinking, perhaps even soul. Great writing that takes you on a journey even when nothing much is happening, action wise. Love his writing. When I read him at school I thought 'how boring' perhaps experience and time has made me wiser. He is very good and Simon Cadell is excellent at narrating this book. Well worth the listening to this book both for technical style and for real emotions portrayal.

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haunting and profoundly beautiful

Like many great novels, there are so many levels on which this story can be appreciated. In particular it foretells in a sense some of the events that were coming to pass in the battle between ideological forces in Indo China. The story is narrated by a man who says he has "no politics", but whose narrative brings the personal and the political together.
On a personal level it can be seen as a meditation on war and love, a duel to the death between the leading male characters as they vie for possession of the beautiful Vietnamese girl "Phong".One of the most sad and profoundly beautiful things that Greene says in this novel relate to war and love.He says that they have always been compared, that "we get involved in a moment of emotion", and then "we cannot get out".
Simon Cadell as narrator was well chosen to read "the Quiet American". His voice has that blend of worldliness and cynicism which enhanced this story for me.I listened to it as a way of winding down as I came off of nightshift; half asleep and half awake, and loved it. Often after listening for a while and drifting off, there was the feeling of a haunting, swirling mystery. It was completely engaging and never intrusive. I recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries, or who wishes to rediscover great literature.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kirstine
  • 07-27-10

Love and War in Indo-China

I've seen filmed version of this book several times, but, after listening to this audio version, think the book is better. Not least because the main character, Fowler, a middle-aged foreign correspondent engages in much introspection that is difficult to depict in a film. Fowler is a typical Greene character: world weary, melancholy, with a young mistress and wife at a distance. The latter a devout Catholic which introduces ruminations about God and religion: common topics in Greene's more serious books.

Fowler is on a journalistic assignment reporting the Vietnam War. He has been living with a pragmatic young local woman for some time when he meets, Pyle, the American of the title whose official role is rather hazy but seems to have a have a hidden agenda to promote a Third Force in the area.

Fowler and Pyle surprisingly become friends and a section of the book describes a hair-raising trip they do together into the North of the country. Their friendship is strained by Pyle's desire to marry Fowler's mistress.

The story starts with the death of, Pyle, and switches back and forth in time to reveal by the end, how and why he died. On the way a number of well-rounded characters play their parts against the back-drop of the Vietnam War. There's intrigue, corruption, violence and love: a heady mixture that makes for an exciting, but sad story.

The reader of the book is excellent

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate A
  • 09-27-16

Vietnam a fascinating backdrop

The performance definitely enhanced this book. The Vietnamese setting is like another character in the intriguing story, and the plot unfurls piece by well timed piece. The writing is more and more enjoyable, with especially interesting descriptions. This isn't normally the kind of book I thought I liked but I'm very glad I chose it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • rena
  • 05-28-16

poor editing and irritating reading

It's a great story, but the reading voice is so monotonous and expressionless that it sounds fake and irritating rather than disillusioned . The editing is terrible, with jumps, gaps and pauses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul
  • 08-03-10

One of my favourite books

An excellent story with superb narration by Simon Cadell - recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • William
  • 08-09-19

Masterpiece

Clearly a masterpiece! I think if one is used to the really very modern audiobooks where the sound is crystal clear then you may well struggle with here. The narrator is fine, rather like Richard Burton however the sound dips up and down and there is a slight hiss throughout.
The book itself went over my head but I enjoyed it. I’m more of a nuts and bolts type of fellow and this had more of the A farewell to arms about it. That said it’s poignancy wasn’t hard or it subtext too gratuitous. Dark stuff! It raises a lot of questions especially if you’re interested in the resulting Vietnam War. Anyway rock on kids and carry on reading.

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  • dans_floor
  • 08-05-19

Great book and narration, poor production quality

Unfortunately, the audio for this recording has highly variable volume, making it alternately difficult to hear and too loud. However, the underlying narration is excellent and fits the tone of the novel perfectly.

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  • Ken McMullin
  • 08-01-19

Never Mind 'Brilliant' - Should Be Mandatory!

Former US Chief of General Staff and US Secretary of State Colin Powell maintained that Bernard Fall's 'Street Without Joy' should be mandatory reading for all senior US Officers before going to Vietnam. Obviously it wasn't and mores the pity but they could have saved themselves a lot of time (and misery) had they simply chosen this wonderful classic by a Master Storyteller - and it is less than half the length! To me in 2019 whilst the story and character of Fowler is redolent of a bygone age far removed from today's so-called journalists ("I am a Reporter...my job is simply to report what happens, not comment on it!) the American, Pyle, sums up all that is wrong with American foreign policy both in Vietnam and since - ideas gleaned from a textbook and applied to a situation they have little comprehension of but nevertheless done for all the 'right' motives thereby exacerbating a situation they never clearly understood in the first place. And don't get me wrong - I' love the Americans but just wish they would sometimes think things out a bit more before assuming that everyone wants the same things they do. I loved this book and cannot fault it in any way. Please do yourself a favor and listen to a beautifully read story that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

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  • MISS J A CALVO
  • 07-19-19

A Literary Wonder

Life, people, politics, war, love betrayal. Greene does them all, but slowly and with quiet intensity. He delivers the harsh truth that there is no truth, I cried for his anti hero and the sadness that is cultural misunderstanding.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • T. Greb
  • 06-21-19

Brilliant!

Was on my to read list for a while and I hadn't bothered to get round to it thinking it would be stuffy and a bit of a chore. It was anything but. I loved the wiring style, the disruptions and I really brought into the 'hero', his mind set and principles (who would annoy me outright in life). Very much worth a read.

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  • helen
  • 11-30-18

A view on Vietnam

It was a struggle to get to the end of this book.
I found it very stiff, probably exacerbated by the narrator. Opium pipes, plastics, dodgy Americans and just the jaded view of Vietnam of a cynic.

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  • Richard
  • 07-12-17

A book which came alive

Having lived in SE Asia since 1984, and for 5 years in Vietnam I have read Greene's book on the beginnings of the American War many times. The characters of the book while dated are somewhat contemporary. Phuong is a person who characterises the mind of a young Asian woman. What one characterises as "Love" can be misconstrued as something else in the shallow Western mind. Americans still try to change the world to their own viewpoint. Modern examples are South America, Iraq, Syria etc. Some of this thinking is somewhat jaded, however still remains. This book is amongst one of Greene's best. He has captured the deceptive gentleness of the Asian mind which has a steely edge despite the truth of tenacity and calculation. So, beware of those thin

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  • Katrina
  • 03-27-15

Thought provoking book

Loved the narration, listened to it twice, couldn't get enough. A finely woven tale interlaced with ethical dilemmas that leave you torn. Historical background made me greedy for more information about Vietnam, colonialism and the long war in the country. Graham Greene, the consummate story teller, leaves me desperate for more of his stories. Simon Cadell gives a perfect reading. Totally enjoyable.