The End of the Affair was a random audiobook buy. I had credits to spare and saw Colin Firth’s name as narrator and clicked purchase without thinking. Because Colin Firth. Obviously. Mr. Darcy aside, Graham Greene is one of those author’s I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t found the time until Colin Firth pushed him in my direction.
Greene’s novel is about the end of an affair. How’s that for a summary? Maurice Bendricks is a bitter ex-lover to a woman named Sarah. Their affair took place during WWII until it abruptly ended after a particularly deadly air raid in London. Sarah ends their relationship and Maurice is left with what he describes as ‘hate’ rather than love. God, faith, and Catholicism now enter the picture.
Honestly, I should have read this one in print. Not because Colin wasn’t great – he was terrific and had such nuanced character changes in his voice that amazed me – but because Graham’s writing really deserves to be read. Each and every word seems so precisely chosen and his turns of phrase are so powerful. I can’t wait to reread this one day.
The story itself is rather hit and miss with me. Bendricks is hardly a lovable character and the religious undertones of the novel are not of any particular interest to me. However, the actual unraveling of the love affair between Bendricks and Sarah feels very visceral and poignant. And in contrast, his growing friendship and connection with cuckolded husband, Henry, is endearing. The humanity of this short novel is what truly wins me over.
Going back to the Catholicism, while I’m not particularly religious, I did appreciate that Bendricks’s final relationship with God is strained, troubled, and filled with questions you’re not sure will ever be answered. I like that he’s not just some enchanted new believer and still struggles in spite of, perhaps because of, his new beliefs.
Oddly, I can’t say I would recommend this story to most readers. To Graham Greene fans, yes. To those who just want to listen to Colin Firth’s yummy voice, yes. Or to those readers who will read anything as long as the writing is beyond gorgeous.
Have you read anything by Graham Greene? Does his overt Catholicism bother or enhance your reading?