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  • Published: 1 June 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446450109
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook

Shades of Greene

One Generation of an English Family

A remarkable group portrait of one English family - the famed, intriguing and pioneering Greenes

In the early years of the last century, two brothers, Charles and Edward Greene, settled in Berkhamsted, a small country town thirty miles from London. There they were to found a remarkable dynasty - fathering twelve children between then - each of whom were to lead varied, well-documented and extraordinary lives.

This book explores for the first time this generation of the Greene family in colourful detail - their relationships and shared history, and their lives - as explorers, writers, doctors, spies, politicians and much more. There is Graham, one of the greatest English writers of the twentieth century; Hugh, the Daily Telegraph's Berlin corespondent in the years leading up to WW2, and later Director-General of the BBC; Raymond, a brilliant mountaineer and medical man who took part in the 1933 Everest expedition; their sister Elisabeth, MI6 agent, enlisting family and friends into the secret service; cousin Ben, a pacifist and Labour Party activist who was interned in 1940 at the same time as Oswald Mosley; his sister, Barbara, who spent the war in Germany; and their younger brother Felix, a pioneer of radio journalism and apologist for Communist China, who moved to a commune in California with his cousin Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley; and Herbert, the black sheep of the family, fantasist and amateur spy.

Interlacing biography, history, high adventure and scenes from literary life, Shades of Greene provides a riveting insight into the self-confident, enterprising, upper middle-class English world that flourished between the 1920s and the 1970s: and into a truly remarkable tribe.

  • Published: 1 June 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446450109
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook

About the author

Jeremy Lewis

A former publisher and the deputy editor of the Oldie, Jeremy Lewis has written three volumes of autobiography and biographies of Cyril Connolly, Tobias Smollett and Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books. Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family, was published by Cape in 2010.

Also by Jeremy Lewis

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Praise for Shades of Greene

A celebration of a remarkable family', 'a remarkably detailed account of the old-boy network, seen from the sunny side

John Carey, Sunday Times Culture

An adept and confident editor, choosing only the most memorable anecdotes and constantly reminding the reader of the interplay between family members', 'It is clear that the achievements of the extended Greene family were truly extraordinary. In Shades of Greene they have a worthy chronicle.

Tim Butcher, The Times

Shades of Greene is an ambitious undertaking that has needed a prodigious amount of research ... Mr Lewis displays skill and stamina in interweaving his subjects' lives ... with his sense of mischief and his see-through glass prose, Greene would surely have approved


Lewis's hugely detailed, exhaustively researched family saga makes you marvel, again and again, at the strangeness of this very English family, while leaving you fervently grateful you're not actually related to them

John Walsh, Independent

Lewis has a first class nose for truffling out good anecdotes

Ian Irvine, Observer

I expect this book will give a lot of people a lot of pleasure... not only does Lewis write agreeably and have a shrewd eye for amusing quotations...the book is full of interesting details

Stefan Collini, Times Literary Supplement

Jeremy Lewis tells the Greene's story in a courtly fashion, full of style and wit

Fergus Fleming, Literary Review

Social history at its best.


Lewis is marvellously adept at placing the Greenes at the centre of world storms

Hugh Macdonald, Sunday Herald

Lewis has a sure instinct for this type of anecdote ... he is also shrewd in his judgements ... entertaining

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Jeremy Lewis, a distinguished biographer... has given us not just a highly entertaining narrative but a study of a section of that now vanished intellectual and administrative English upper middle class which used to run the place so splendidly on behalf of those who owned it but preferred not to work.

Edna O'Doherty, Irish Times

The detail is absolutely typical of Jeremy Lewis's unmissable pageant of British eccentricity and quirky genius

Roger Lewis, Sunday Express

An engrossing portrait of a generation.

Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

This is an ambitious book, that works... There is much on espionage, publishing, arguments, alcohol and marriages


This is one of those biographies that one should feel free to pick up without any knowledge or interest in any part of its subjects, topics and times covered, and it will still strike the reader as informative, educational and as clear as Graham Greene's own writing. It's a large read, but a most worthwhile one...

John Lloyd

Lewis's book chronicles the lives of a family of adventurers, politicians, broadcasters and secret agents and also serves as a captivating social history of 20th-century England

Sunday Telegraph

Jeremy Lewis' book is crammed with characters - and not just the famous. The writing is evocative, sympathetic and non-judgemental... The book also fills in a number of biographical gaps in the life of Graham Greene, but primarily it is a family story which supplies a wonderful nostalgic picture of a vanished world of upper-middle-class self-confident pretension.'

Contemporary Review