Monday, February 01, 2010

End of the Affair

Last Sunday, I was reading in bed and Dan was whistling Forever Young. It was unbelievably annoying so I asked him to stop because I was trying to read. He's used to me being able to read through anything, so he looked over "Really? What are you read-- wait? GRAHAM GREENE? You're reading a book for adults?!"

I think his brain might have exploded this weekend when he caught me with some Elizabeth Gaskell.

The End of the Affair Graham Greene

On the surface, this is the story about what happens when our narrator, Maurice Bendrix runs into Henry Miles one night. Bendrix used to be having an affair with Henry's wife, Sarah, but she left him eighteen months ago. Bendrix hasn't gotten over it. Having the Mileses appear back in his life reopens the wounds that Sarah left. Bendrix wants to hurt her like she hurt him--he wants his revenge. As the story progresses, we get bits and pieces of their original relationship, how it began and the day it ended...

In the beginning, Bendrix claims that this is a record of hate far more than of love, for he hates Sarah now and wants to destroy her. Of course, despite Bendrix's protestations of hate, as the story goes on we see how his hate is a mask for his pain, he doesn't really hate at all. As Sarah says, ...Maurice who thinks he hates, and loves, loves all the time. Even his enemies.

It's a story of acceptance of loss, of London during the war (such minor details, such as standing on the sidewalk, the glass of blown-out and shattered windows under their feet). And it's a book about spiritual growth. Sarah left Bendrix for God. At the beginning, none of the characters believed, but in examining what happened and what happened after, Sarah becomes a Catholic believer and at the end, Bendrix and Henry aren't as sure in their atheism. For, in Bendrix's destroyed house, only the stained glass window survived, unmoving and unblemished by the bombs.

Perfectly crafted, Greene explores these relationships between people and religion with a slight hand (the entire book is only 192 pages). The prose is quiet and understated, but there is so much depth. I can't wait to read more of his work.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Welcome to the world of Graham Greene! You've started with one of the best (and honestly, one of the most emotionally wrenching). The movie is quite well done, too. Try "The Heart of the Matter" next. I don't read a lot of spy fiction, but Greene's spy novels are terrific. "The Quiet American," "Our Man in Havana," "The Human Factor," and "The Third Man" ... all great. And then there's "The Power and the Glory," as fine a novel about faith, doubt and idealism in a seriously flawed world as I've read and had the privilege to teach. Greene's novels have sustained me well through some pretty tough times. Enjoy!