‘England Made Me’ by Graham Greene – Twins in Stockholm

 

‘England Made Me’ by Graham Greene (1935) – 207 pages

My favorite story about the author Graham Greene is when the New Statesman magazine held a writing contest in 1949. The three best parodies of Greene’s unique style of writing would win prizes. Unbeknownst to the magazine editors, Greene secretly submitted his own entry under the name “N. Wilkinson” which was made up of the first two paragraphs of a novel set in Italy called ‘The Stranger’s Hand: An Entertainment’. He won second prize in the contest.

In ‘England Made Me’, Kate and Anthony are twins in their thirties. Kate, having been born first by a half hour, has always been protective of her younger brother. Anthony is a charmer with the ladies.

You’d be gone on me,” Anthony said, turning on her the same glance as he turned she knew, on every waitress, calculated interest, calculated childishness, a charm of which every ingredient has been tested and stored for future use.”

So Anthony is a charmer, but he is also a ne’er-do-well. He cannot keep a job. Each time he tells his family that he has resigned, but they all know that he has been sacked again.

Kate is the mistress of Sweden’s most successful businessman Eric Krogh, owner of Krogh Industries. After Anthony loses his last job and has no prospects, Kate puts in a good word for him with her boss and lover who gives Anthony a job at Krogh Industries as a security guard protecting Krogh himself.

As in all Graham Greene novels, there is a subtle and fascinating interplay between the characters and the plot of the story. Each character has his or her own set of traits which prove crucial to the plot.

In Greene’s stories, no one is ever too good to be true. All the characters are morally ambiguous. Certainly some are worse than others, but even the best are bad enough. To err is human. Each person has his or her own set of faults. Greene always portrays, in his words, “a world of black and gray”.

There are more sinners among the bourgeois than among peasants.” – Graham Greene, ‘Monsignor Quixote’

They did make a movie of ‘England Made Me’ starring Michael York in 1973, but they reset the location of the story from Stockholm to Germany. The movie’s producers must have felt that Nazi Germany fit the moral climate of the novel better than Sweden.

 

Grade:    A

 

7 responses to this post.

  1. I love everything he ever wrote. Who, I wonder, is his successor now?

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Hi Lisa,
      Graham Greene was unusual in that he was both popular as well as respected by the literary critics. Stephen King is popular, but his work is not considered literary by any means. One writer that comes to mind is Ian McEwan, but even he has a long ways to go to get even close to Graham Greene. Muriel Spark was helped along considerably by Graham Greene, and she attained both popularity and critical success also.

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  2. It’s too long since I read Greene, and I still have plenty on the shelves unread (including this one). I feel a summer project coming on! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi kaggsy,
      I’m running out of Greene titles I have not read so I had to go all the way back to 1935 for this one. I wonder if Greene has any childhood scribblings… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  3. I enjoyed this one too. I liked it being set in Sweden, like some of the best current Scandicrime novels, exposing the dirty underbelly of the clean exterior. I can’t think of a successor to Greene either – McEwan isn’t it yet, I agree.

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    Reply

    • Hi Annabel,
      Graham Greene did not have a usual locale for his novels. They took place all over the world from Mexico to Cuba to Africa to Asia, even a couple in England. Still I was somewhat surprised with the Swedish location of this one.

      Liked by 1 person

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