A couple weeks ago I read Thomas of My Porch’s review of Graham Greene’s The Human Factor. He liked it a lot and made it sound pretty darned good, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf at the second-hand store a few days later, I thought it’s a sign. So I bought it and now I’ve read it. At first, I was totally gripped — a small intelligence department in Britain, three people going over info from part of Africa has sprung a leak. Who is it? We only really meet two of the three and the third is dismissed for no good reason I could see. Why make it 3 just to ignore the third? But at first I was still really interested in which of them it was. But the story changes, the human factor, I guess you could say, enters. You see the weaknesses and strengths of all these characters both the department men, Castle and Davis, and the administration and their characteristics are what make the story play out as it does.
Love, lust, racism, tolerance, sociopathy, restlessness, loneliness, idealism, irritability, patience and impatience, intelligence and stupidity — to name a few all have their part in the turns the story takes. And I get exasperated when I think smart characters are being really stupid. So there were a number of points I was getting exasperated, but I still wanted to know what happened. Also the picture of love in this, Castle and his wife (another Sarah), was infinitely more to my taste than The End of the Affair where two people who supposedly love each other more than anything can’t be bothered to get together because it might bother her husband. And an adulterous affair won’t? Bah. Every other review I’ve read of the End of the Affair is fairly rapturous about their love and the truth of all their emotions — well, I’ll give them the jealousy. He certainly had that down. But Human Factor shows love, in my view, as it should be. I don’t want to spoil it – though I also want to discuss it, particularly how it all ends up and whether he couldn’t have been a bit smarter, but then I’m just reading it, not trying to live it so I guess I shouldn’t talk. I’m glad right now I have no ratings scale as I’m not sure where I’d put it.