Reviews of Confidential Agent, the (1939)
Review by clong (2006-10-08)
The Confidential Agent tells the story of D., an agent for one side of a civil war in an unnamed European country (clearly modeled after Spain). Bitter and withdrawn, D is sent to England in a bid to buy the coal that will keep his sideís government from collapse. A chance encounter with a woman who turns out to be the daughter of an English coal mine owner starts him down a path of encounters with both competing agents for the other side and distrusting and at times disloyal agents from his own side. Before he knows it, heís also on the run from the police.
This one is well written enough, but really pales in comparison to Greene's superb This Gun for Hire, which I had read immediately before. The characters are uniformly less compelling (in particular the romantic interest Rose), the plot much looser and driven by coincidence, the romance much less believable and the conclusion less satisfying.
The most interesting thing about the book is itís depiction of pre World War II England, its idiosyncrasies, its naivetť, and its social stratification. Itís a book that exudes cynicism about both politicians and capitalists and empathy for the poor.