Sunday, November 20, 2011

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair: A Review

This novella is a CL Book of the Month and so I read it, figuring the good folks who recommend these books know what they're talking about. The only other work by the late British writer I have read is "The Power and the Glory," a book I adore about a corupted but redeemable priest in Mexico.

"The End of the Affair" didn't disappoint me, either. It is a first person fictional account of the end of an extramarital affair. While the topic is not something I normally would be interested in reading about, the book is about the conflict between loving another and loving God, and about how God is present even when we ignore Him or despise Him.


Graham was a troubled man who struggled with bipolar disorder, a Roman Catholic who understood firsthand the moral anguish of his characters. The protagonist of this tale is Maurice Bendrix, a not terribly likeable fellow who obsesses over his married lover to the point where he hire a private detective to spy on her.

Set in London during and after World War II, the novel's mood is as dreary as a rainy day. And yet, the novel, with its understated tone, is psychologically compelling; Graham takes us into the interior musings of not only Bendrix, but also of his former lover, through her diary entries.

All the characters in the story wonder about the the meaning of their lives, about existence of the Divine and whether the love of the Divine can repair the losses they suffer. The book worked its way into me quietly; I read pages of it before going to sleep and dreamed about the characters every night. Their voices, fears and hopes are still with me. 

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