Graham Greene novels usually run the gamut of fair to middling, but when he’s exceptional, it’s a cause for celebration. The Bomb Party, or Doctor Fischer of Geneva–yes that’s the full title–is Graham at his most enjoyable, most subversive, and most readable.
It’s a slim volume, somewhere around 200 pages. It revolves around that respectable, if old-fashioned, convention of a book built around a dinner party. Proust, Austen, James, and Tolstoy have all written novels where the pivotal scene comes after hors d’oeuvres. Luis Bunuel has made at least three films about dinner parties gone awry (Viridiana, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and the great film The Exterminating Angel).
Graham Greene, towards the close of his career, made his own entry, or entree, to the genial sub-genre, this time recasting it with people of different walks of life meeting up at a party, unsure of what to expect. To fans of And Then There Were None or The House on Haunted Hill, this premise will seem familiar. Once they arrive, they meet their host, the enigmatic and churlish Dr. Fischer. Fischer is a devious fellow; he displays the worst character traits of the bourgeois, and he seems to have a serious vendetta against life itself. When his guests have finished with their meal, he offers up to them a game that could result either in them receiving a fortune or with them meeting an untimely end.
The main character is a man who’s lost too much and has become disenchanted with life. Like Conrad’s Marlowe, he becomes the prime candidate to infiltrate a heart of darkness, this time pulsating in a stately mansion.
To be frank, the novel will only take you about 2 or 3 hours to read, so check first if it’s at your local library. The book is good, but not necessarily great, so don’t go too far out of your way for it or spend too much purchasing it.
To read my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories on your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or home computer, click here.
To read my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories on your Nook, iPad, iPhone, or home computer, click here.