Our Man in Havana

Dave Mason sent me a note when I said I’d been reading Grahama Greene, saying I read too much science, and he was glad to see I’d been reading some fiction. Thing is, I picked it up from the library because I thought I’d been reading too much science, and thought I should read some fiction.

Dad suggested the book to me years ago with a chuckle over the amusing premise – a guy in the ’50s recruited to spy for the British in Cuba, makes up his “agents”, makes up his reports. He’s a vacuum cleaner salesman, and to tart up his reports, he sketches by hand the pieces of the latest vacuum cleaner model, adding a human for scale to make it look like some giant evil Cuban war machine.

It’s a dark and funny book, but the best bits were unexpected – the touching relationship between Wormold and his daughter, Milly, the bittersweet joy of being the father of a teenage girl, the darting in and out of her world, trying to know it while one still can:

He couldn’t afford the time not to love. It was as if he had come with her a little way on a journey that she would finish alone. The separating years approached them both, like a station down the line, all gain for her and all loss for him.