Welcome to our first read-along discussion of The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. If you’re following our schedule, you should have read Book One and Book Two.
Spoiler warning: We will be discussing Book One and Book Two of The End of the Affair in detail, both in this post and the comments section.
In keeping with our previous Graham Greene read-along, we’ll start by breaking the story down into its components, and discussing what we like or don’t like about each one.
Setting: In comparing this book with The Heart of the Matter, there isn’t as strong of a sense of setting. It’s London, and I read so much British fiction that this is a very familiar setting for me. When he wrote The Quiet American, set in Vietnam, or The Heart of the Matter, set in Africa, there was a lot of description and vivid imagery that placed the reader into the world of the book. I don’t get this sense with The End of the Affair, but then again, it’s not really necessary for this story.
Characters: Once again, I get the idea that Greene is not a big fan of humans in general! I don’t care much for our main character, Maurice Bendrix. He is self-obsessed. He would say he is obsessed with Sarah, but in reality, he’s only bothered by the fact that she didn’t stay with him and that she could be with someone else.
Henry is one of those weak, oblivious husband types; I have no patience for men like that. How could you be married to someone for so long and not know that they were completely unsatisfied and unhappy?
Sarah is still an enigma to me. I’m assuming we’re going to learn more from her now that Bendrix has his hands on her journal. And I have a premonition that she hasn’t been up to what he thinks she’s been up to.
Plot: I was drawn into the story of this novel much more quickly than with The Heart of the Affair. It seems very plot-driven, but the beauty of the writing doesn’t suffer any for that fact. I have an idea of what Bendrix is about to discover, but don’t want to give anything away in case I’m correct. I’m sure you do, too – there has been a bit of foreshadowing.
Writing: While I wouldn’t call Greene’s books “fun” reads, the beauty of the writing is what keeps me coming back for more. Passages like this one from page 70:
We had only just lain down on the bed when the raid started. It made no difference. Death never mattered at those times – in the early days I even used to pray for it: the shattering annihilation that would prevent forever the getting up, the putting on of clothes, the watching her torch trail across to the opposite side of the Common like the tail-light of a slow car driving away. I have wondered sometimes whether eternity might not after all exist as the endless prolongation of the moment of death, and that was the moment I would have chosen, that I would still choose if she were alive, the moment of absolute trust and absolute pleasure, the moment when it was impossible to quarrel because it was impossible to think.
What do you think so far? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below, or else write up your own post and then leave me a link so I can read it.