Initially the book was discussed – both the merits and demerits, most people had read the book to the end and felt it was an easy read. The discussion quickly expanded into a philosophical argument about dystopian and utopian societies and the influence of books and IT on it. Discussions included social networks, fake news, propaganda and roles of government. People in the book group recommended other books to read of a similar genre. We had a debate as to how society had changed since the Second World War and how relevant some of the content of the book was nowadays.
This was a very interesting book discussion where all of the participants had something to say!
The group in general had enjoyed the book. K in particular had loved it and gone on to order more of Greene’s novels from the library. G, however, had found it implausible.
“I couldn’t believe that Fowler would act like that with Pyle. If someone has tried to steal your girlfriend you can’t carry on being all polite with him.”
Others disagreed pointing out that Pyle saves Fowler’s life, and it is Fowler who, in the end, allows Pyle to be murdered. We all enjoyed Green’s descriptions of a ragged confusing war where people are just trying to survive, yet also to hold onto ideas of duty and loyalty.
‘I think Pyle was realistic in his approach to the war. That seems to be how Americans want to see themselves’ said A. We also discussed the similarities in how Tony Blair convinced himself and others to invade Iraq. All for the greater good.
‘I don’t think we ever know Phuong though. We just see her through Fowler,’ said K.
‘The thing is it always Phuong who makes Fowler’s opium pipes?’ This point makes us laugh. It’s true. Fowler seems to love/need his opium yet is incapable of preparing his own pipes even after his long stay in the country. Is this the key to his self-defeating love of Phuong? That he knows he won’t take her out of the country. We agree that at the end of this mostly satisfying novel, Fowler still has a big challenge ahead, even though he has got everything he wanted.