I haven’t read any short stories for a long time, so when I was perusing the bookshelves, trying to decide what to read next, I ended up plucking out this small volume of Graham Greene stories, which he first published back in 1963.

A Sense of Reality by Graham Greene

I cannot remember with any certainty when I picked up this book, but it was certainly several years ago, possibly in a second-hand book shop in Brighton. That’s the great thing about picking up second-hand books: when you see something you think you may be interested in reading one day, you can purchase it for a pound or two and add it to your bookshelf, then one day months or even years later, that book grabs your attention afresh and becomes the right-book-at-the-right-time for you to read.

So, what is A Sense of Reality like?

It is a collection of just four (admittedly, fairly long) short stories.

And the title?

I guess this is an ironic title, in that the four stories contained in this volume all involve dreams or fables or childhood fantasies. So, unlike most of Graham Greene’s writing, which is very much based in the hard, gritty everyday world, here Greene experiments with slightly more ambiguous scenarios.

Are the stories any good?

They certainly are. The writing is fairly terse, but no less effective for it. In fact, I found reading these shorts a bit like reading an Ernest Hemingway story: the prose is almost  deceptively simple, yet it hooks you in a treat and keeps moving forward at a sound pace. Plus, as you would expect with Graham Greene, these are thought-provoking pieces. They four tales deal with the unconscious, faith and doubt, mortality, and myth and fable, respectively. Quite a feat for just a hundred and four pages!

This has definitely made me want to read or re-read one of Graham Greene’s novels.

Entertaining he may always be; comforting never (taken from a review by The Spectator)

If you liked this, you might also enjoy: some of Ernest Hemingway’s short story collections – for example Men Without Women, or The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Alternatively,  do try one of Graham Greene’s fine novels, such as The Power and the Glory, or The Heart of the Matter.

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