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The Quiet American

Narrated by: Simon Cadell
Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (320 ratings)

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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
    5 out of 5 stars

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

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Literally A Classic !!

Not sure if it's because I studied this for English Literature "O" level 40 years ago or that at the time it created a life long interest in the tragic story of Vietnam that has stayed with me since, but I have always loved this book.

Re-visiting it via Audible it has not lost any of it's brilliance for me and has to be one a Classic piece of literature from Graham Greene. An enthralling story mixed with many questions on morality and the human condition that is "life", 6 hours passed very quickly and all too soon it was finished.

The narration at first sounded a bit nasal but this disappeared quickly as the character developed and Simon Cadell really does justice to Greene's classic.

It was special to me when I was a teenager and more than 4 decades later, it's as good as it was when I studied it at school. Possibly my favourite book.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of my favourite books

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

1 person found this helpful

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Shades of Greene

'The Quiet American' is Graham Greene's most memorable novel. A love trangle of characters in war torn 1950s Vietnam represent their respective countries in this subtle exploration of good and evil, power and mental health.

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The quiet American

A superb tale set in post war Vietnam while the French still ruled it. It does run between present and past seamlessly at bit, but does show what violent place it was. Excellent story though wonderfully told.

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  • S
  • 22-03-20

Wonderful story, brilliantly read

Elegant, prophetic, disturbing, depressing.
Without doubt Graham Greene was one of our best novelists and this is book is testament to that, especially as it was one of his later works.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Cameron
  • 03-05-11

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 people found this helpful

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  • Ilana
  • 24-09-12

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 person found this helpful

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  • James
  • 04-09-19

Great story and narration - terrible audio quality

The story was great and the narration was perfect, but unfortunately the audio was awful quality. Most annoyingly, the volume kept changing and would often be too quiet to hear, and then very soon after be too loud!

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  • Robyn
  • 27-04-16

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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  • Michael
  • 26-12-13

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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  • meredith mcarthur
  • 11-04-13

haunting and profoundly beautiful

Like many great novels, in this one there is more than one perspective from which the narrative can be appreciated. In particular "The Quiet American" foretells 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 poignant 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.