“Hope was an instinct only the reasoning human mind could kill. An animal never knew despair.”
You may have seen me briefly talk about this book in my video about Settings on my YouTube channel but of course I had to give it a full review as this story just blew me away. I think the reason I enjoyed The Power and the Glory so much all stems from the setting and it’s vivid descriptions. Set in Mexico in the 1840’s (???) we follow the ‘Whisky Priest’ try to survive the persecution of Roman Catholicism and to rescue himself from sin. I felt like I was there with him the entire time; congratulating him on his successes and despairing for his falls. Everything felt so real, even though Greene didn’t describe every little detail, he did enough to let you imagine everything; it was like seeing things through a window pane, just a tiny bit hazy around the edges. It was such a strange yet wonderful feeling, looking up from the pages and realising I wasn’t actually in Mexico!
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The story also gave a few snapshots into the lives of others who had come into contact with the ‘Whisky Priest’. I really enjoyed the fact that the reader gets to see the ‘Whisky Priest’ through various different eyes; it adds so much depth to both the character and the story itself. However on occasions I did get a bit muddled on who was actually talking, but a little bit of looking back over the last pages soon sorted that out. As for the story, it was non-stop. Living the life of a fugitive the protagonist runs from place to place, desperate for some security, and therefore the reader is taken along – and you don’t often get a breather. That really isn’t a bad thing, in fact it made me want to keep going even more. I had to know if he made it to the village alive, if he was overlooked by the Lieutenant, if he finally found safety. It is such a compelling read.
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In addition this book explores so many ideas and themes. Greene looks at redemption, what is right and wrong within both life and religion, and it explores the idea of hope. Each is done with a wonderful subtlety that provides just the right amount of ambiguity to let the reader make their own mind up. This book really does has something for everybody; it also counts as a mini-holiday, although maybe you wouldn’t count running from the police and spending nights in prison a holiday. But I would say that this book would be better for people aged 15+ due to some of the content and also in order to take more away from the book.