by Graham Greene
Imagine it now: A virile, young man wanders around the book store. Having recently finished Greene’s marvelous Our Man in Havana, he casually glances to see what else the author may have for him to enjoy, only to find that he wrote Orient Express. Of course, it wasn’t until after purchasing it that he found out that it wasn’t that Orient Express. But, why not read it, now that he has it? After that Agatha Christie one, of course, now that he’s no longer an ignoramus, it seems as good a time as any to sample some more Greene.
And, of course, Greene’s Orient Express isn’t anything like that other one. While there are many stories interweaving throughout––a romance blossoms between a naive chorus girl and shrewd Jewish businessman; a man wanted for murder tries to blend in while fleeing the authorities … a lesbian couple tries to work things out in their relationship?––the main plot deals with an exiled communist doctor coming back to Belgrade to start a revolution. Greene really had a knack for matching his description and prose to the feelings he wished to evoke, and it’s a delight reading his writing all the way through, whether it came hand-in-hand with beauty or poignancy. And the story itself kept me interested throughout, but I think the biggest problem was something of a lack of focus in the story. While, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I can pick out what the plot’s actually about, each of the secondary stories are presented as though they will amount to more, both within the book and in every synopsis I’ve read. So, chalk most of my disappointment with Orient Express to my disappointment in its side plots not amounting to much after everything led me to believe they should be significant.
Otherwise, there’s nothing inherently wrong with those side plots, and the main story thread actually wrapped up in a way that satisfied with its sadness. While I would recommend Our Man in Havana over this one, Orient Express was still an enjoyable read. If you want to give it a try, however, make sure you adjust your expectations accordingly.