Graham Greene used the label “entertainments” to distinguish his lighter novels from serious works like The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American. Travels with My Aunt is definitely entertaining, but it also has a message: live life to the fullest.
Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, hasn’t seen Aunt Augusta in more than 50 years when she shows up at his mother’s funeral. She discloses that the woman they’ve put to rest was really Henry’s stepmother and that his biological mother was an unnamed lover of his father. Curiosity about his past lures the stuffy, stay-at-home probable virgin away from the conventional suburban existence where his only interest was gardening dahlias. Traveling with wild Aunt Augusta, Henry listens to her tales of love affairs, smuggling, smoking pot, and life on the lam. Henry is pulled into his aunt’s lifestyle until he finally embraces it wholly — at the same time discovering the secret of his history.
Whether or not Greene was holding up Aunt Augusta’s unscrupulous lifestyle as a model, Travels with My Aunt does get the reader thinking about what makes a good life — while providing many laughs along the way.
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