Graham Greene - Travels with my Aunt

Let’s go travelling again in October with Graham Greene’s hilarious Travels with my Aunt. Retired bank manager, Henry Pulling, is forced into crazy adventures with his eccentric and amoral Aunt Augusta. What crimes does she commit? What role does her black lover Wordsworth play? Share the enormous fun of this novel with me!

Madcap humour and sheer unexpectedness

There are many memorable aunts in fiction – you find some fabulous examples in the novels of Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and George Eliot – but one of the very best has to be Aunt Augusta in Graham Greene’s delightful 1969 novel. Red-haired and impulsive, and a woman who has gone through lovers as others might go through changes of clothes, Aunt Augusta drags her ‘nephew’, retired bank manager Henry Pulling, away from his quiet suburban existence growing dahlias and out into a world of crime, travel and mad adventure. From Brighton to Paris, on the Orient Express to Istanbul, and finally to the seedier parts of Paraguay, Henry gets pulled from his conservative mindset and his life changes irrevocably.

I love the madcap humour and the sheer unexpectedness of Travels with My Aunt. Aunt Augusta is everything you do NOT expect in a septuagenarian, and is one of literature’s most finely drawn amoral characters. I love Wordsworth, her black lover, and the range of other characters who swing in and out of the criminal world and Aunt Augusta’s orbit.

“Brighton was the first real journey I undertook in my aunt’s company and proved a bizarre foretaste of much that was to follow.”
― Graham Greene

An intriguing author

Graham Greene is a fascinating novelist. Spying seems to have almost been the family profession, and it can be hard to be accurate about his life story as he was so fond of misinformation. Unusually, he was able to achieve both critical acclaim and huge popularity, and he was especially loved by Catholic readers, as many of his books examine aspects of Catholicism. Greene suffered badly from depression and novelist William Golding has said of Greene that he was “the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man’s consciousness and anxiety”. Learn more about this intriguing author and his varied works.

Travels with my Aunt is actually one of Graham Greene’s funniest books. It’s a novel about change and about the power of travel to shock us out of staid and conventional mindsets. In this time of no overseas travel permitted for most of us, it’s fun to travel vicariously with Augusta, Henry, Tooley, Wordsworth and the treacherous Mr Visconti. Join these exotic travels and have fun with Graham Greene.

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This Literary Readers’ Guide is a real treat! In it I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.

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Discuss it with me

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I only recommend books I have read or know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.
Featured image credit- Graham Green, Travels with my Aunt. Maggie Smith, Louis Gossett Jr. and Alec McCowen in Travels with My Aunt (1972), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069404/
Body image credit- Graham Greene in 1939, By Bassano Ltd – National Portrait Gallery: NPG x15393, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65819874
Body image credit- Graham Green, Travels with my Aunt. Maggie Smith in Travels with My Aunt (1972), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069404/

Comments (2)

  1. Gaby Meares

    I didn’t know what to expect with this book. I’ve enjoyed several of Greene’s books, but Travels is nothing like anything else he has written!

    What a romp! I listened to the book narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith who was just amazing. Perhaps I wouldn’t have enjoyed this as much if I’d just read it. Pigott-Smith brought all the characters to life.
    We all need an Aunt Augusta in our lives to shake us out of our complacency!

    My only disappointment with the book occurs at the very last, with the quite shocking reveal that Henry is going to marry that very young girl. And the cavalier response by Aunt Augusta to Wordsworth’s murder seemed very hard – for me, she lost some of her appeal.

    I’m glad I read the book before reading your guide, as I didn’t realise Augusta was in fact his mother until it is revealed at the end of the book!

    Thanks again for introducing me to a novel I would not have otherwise read.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have also listened to Tim Piggot-Smith reading it – doesn’t he do a wonderful job.
      I agree with all your comments – a fabulous romp until that disturbing ending.

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