Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Captain and His Enemy by Graham Greene

"'He loves her, boy. Can't you understand that - he loves her?' But of course I couldn't understand."

Jim was 12 years old when he was taken from his unhappy boarding school and brought to live with the Captain and Lizza. Although he means a lot to his new found mother and father, he feels no affinity towards them. He does not regret his lack of care for his providers, but it does cause him to consider both his relationship to them and their relationship to one another.

The first half of the book sets up many mysteries and introduces an array of characters, all of whom are connected in an unexplained way. Since the story is told by Jim, things become clearer as he finds out about his own past and the past of those he lives with; however, the plot is only a framework, which drives the heavily conceptual novel.

Jim’s main concern through-out the book is brought about by his observations of his adoptive parents’ strange relationship. While his each of parents is sure of the other’s love, neither one is willing to display their love openly. He is indebted to them, and yet he feels nothing toward them. They owe him and each other nothing, yet their love is strong and oddly unspoken. This contrasts heavily with his own short relationships where the word ‘love’ is often thrown about. As Jim sees it, there is no reasonable explanation for why they might love each other.

The end of the book takes a strange turn, which thankfully develops the characters much further, but I cannot delve into that as I promised not to spoil anything.

This was enjoyable as well and quick and easy to read. The book is mysterious but some of the mystery is cheaply manufactured by leaving out information, making it almost impossible for the reader to figure out what’s coming next. Despite a few misgivings, I think the strong thematic content of the book makes it well worth reading.

2 comments:

Christopher said...

Kelly: last to the party.

Carlton said...

By the way, I love these new Penguin Classic paperbacks. They just released a bunch of Steinbeck's works in this same binding and style.