Gambling for Life and Death

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene ★★★★½

I absolutely loved this little book of just under 120 pages. Originally written for MGM in 1944 and then forgotten, the manuscript was found again in 1983 and published in it’s present form. The story takes place in France during and immediately following WWII. In the opening chapter, a German officer informs a group of thirty prisoners that they must choose three men among their ranks to be executed the following morning. The men decide to draw for it, and when Jean-Louis Chavel, a rich and unpopular lawyer finds he’s picked a piece of paper marking him for execution, he offers to give away all his possessions, including his family’s country house, to the person who’ll accept to take his place. The bulk of the story centres around Chavel once he is released, penniless, unable to find work and irresistibly drawn to the home of his ancestors, now occupied by the dead man’s remaining family. This story was both fascinating and profound, touching on issues of identity, morality, courage and redemption. It was my introduction to Graham Greene, an author who’s work I’ll be sure to seek out.

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4 thoughts on “Gambling for Life and Death

  1. Have to read “The Heart of the Matter”, and “The End of the Affair'”, the latter adapted screenplay was brilliant.

    • Yes, I definitely agree. As of now I’ve added: The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory, Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, Our Man in Havana, Travels with My Aunt and The End of the Affair to my wishlist. I hadn’t realized that all his books are quite short and have to say that appeals to me that much more!

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