Book Review: Loser Takes All by Graham Greene

As a writer, Graham Greene is best known for his political thrillers, such as Our Man in Havana or The Honorary Counsel than for his other works, or as he called them his “entertainments”. One of his lesser known works, or entertainments is “Loser Takes All“. In the novel (really novella) Graham treads the ground of the romantic comedy or as it is known in Hollywood the Rom-Com.

The tale describes two weeks in the whirlwind and hectic early days of the marriage of Mr. Bertram, a 40 year old British assistant accountant working in the bowels of a large corporation, and his young bride of only 25, Cary. Bertram is divorced and has little romance left in him, whereas Cary is full of life and romantic ideals. Their plans for an ordinary church wedding with a two week honeymoon at the seaside in Bournemouth are up ended by an odd encounter with Mr. Bertram’s boss, the eccentric Mr. Dreuther. Dreuther is constantly referred to as the Grand Old Man, or GOM, of the company.

Bertram’s and Cary’s wedding plans somehow come to the attention of Mr..Dreuther. The Grand Old Man then changes the couple’s plans. Instead of a normal middle class wedding and honeymoon at Mr. Dreuther’s behest the couple will get married and honeymoon in Monte Carlo. Dreuther will then sail to Monte Carlo in his private yacht to meet the couple. However things do not go as planned. The Grand Old Man does not arrive for the wedding. Bertram and Cary are forced to make their own, very expensive arrangements to stay in the city.

To pay the growing hotel bills Bertram devises a gambling system, at first he loses, but soon the system turns around and Bertram starts to win and win big. Bertram becomes obsessed with his continuing to win at the gambling tables. Meanwhile Cary grows disenchanted with her increasingly money hungry new husband. So she takes up with a “hungry young man” who flatters her romantic side.

Greene’s great control of the language is evident in this light little piece of fluff. The story starts out humorous and grows more serious as events proceed and so does Greene’s prose. The characters and their motives are a bit shallower than the usual cast of a Greene novel, but that is perhaps fitting given that this work is designed to be no more than a merely amusing romp and not to be taken too seriously.

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