Final read-along discussion: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Welcome to our final read-along discussion of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. (part one and part two)

Spoiler warning: We will be discussing The Heart of the Matter in detail, both in this post and the comments section.

Maybe that should say “I” will be discussing the book? Did anyone keep reading along with me?

Well, I can’t say that I loved The Heart of the Matter, but I expected that. I am reading Greene’s books for the quality of writing and for the human issues that he deals with, not because I think they will be happy, feel-good reads.

Scobie is an intriguing character. He is so caught up in his obligations to people that he forgets that he also has an obligation to himself. He is willing to damn himself to hell, according to his Catholic beliefs, rather than potentially disappoint and hurt the two women in his life. I find his sense of duty bizarre. And I find it very strange that, with as strong as his religious beliefs are, that he found it easier to go against God than to stay around and choose between two women and stand up to the consequences of his dealings with Yusef.

Wilson also has his sense of duty, his obligation to the truth – even to the point of revealing to Louise his suspicions about Scobie’s death. He says he loves her, but his love is completely selfish, and he’s willing to hurt Louise’s memory of Scobie in order to get her to turn to him.

I can’t imagine that anybody reading this book would be surprised at the ending, as the foreshadowing of Scobie’s decision is very heavy-handed. I almost wish that Greene had been a little less heavy with the hints, leaving me more in suspense as to what his ultimate choice would be.

If you read along with me, please leave your thoughts on the book in the comment section, so we can keep the discussion going.

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4 Responses to Final read-along discussion: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

  1. Bree says:

    Hmm.

    Like you I don’t think I -enjoyed- this exactly. I won’t ever re-read it, but I think that as with previous Graham Greene books, I am glad that I read it, because I found it interesting. Essentially the people seemed weak and self-serving. Louise and Scobie are miserable together, but she comes back because some tells her about Helen. She doesn’t love Wilson either (not that I blame her, he’s weak and self-serving too) and she’s rather horrible to him. I’ve no doubt she marries him at some stage after this book ends and a whole cycle begins again.

    I’m not religious in any fashion, so a lot of the internal struggle over damnation, Hell, etc vs suicide did not really resonate with me. I agree that the foreshadowing could’ve been a little more subtle than it was, the last section is almost announcing it in neon letters.

    Thanks for hosting Carrie – this is another title ticked off my Graham Green Challenge and it’s always nice to read a book along with someone else.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Bree – thanks for reading along with me! And I imagine you’re right – I can definitely see Louise and Wilson getting together and being just as miserable as she and Scobie were. Even though you and I were the only ones who read the book, I’m glad we did – it was my first Greene this year, and I’m the one hosting the challenge! I’m going to read The End of the Affair next.

  2. The tension built as Louise returns at the beginning of Book 3. Scobie’s entrapment made this novel a page-turner. I was shocked at the transformation in Louise: easy-going, affable, cheery.

    As Scobie descends to his last moment, I kept hoping that Graham would invent a happy ending. The irony of the British spelling of vise struck me. Pain like a vice.

    Father Rank’s comment— “Somehow I can’t like a man who’s quite so observant.” — reflect my feeling at the end of the novel: I didn’t like one of the characters.

    This is not a book I can recommend, and yet I am not sorry I read it and I would like to read more of Graham Greene. I don’t know which title to read next, but I have several short stories, The Third Man, and some travel pieces in the collection with The Heart of the Matter.

    Thank you, Carrie, for hosting the read-along. It got me past thinking about reading Graham Greene to actually reading him!

    PS – My next book may be another downer. A friend gave me a collection of Dorothy Parker on a visit last summer; she will be back in two weeks and I think I should read it so we can talk about it. :)

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Carol – I’ve never read Parker, though some of her quotes are quite witty and cutting.

      I would recommend The Quiet American over The Heart of the Matter – I read it several years ago. It’s not a cheerful read, either, though – I’m beginning to think that Greene really didn’t like people very much!

      I had someone ask about doing another Greene read-along of The End of the Affair sometime in the fall, so I’m waiting to see how much interest I have.

      Thanks for reading this one along with me!