I have had this book on my TBR list FOREVER. I heard all about the emotion, the tears, the heart-warming plot. I was disappointed that my library did not have the audio. When I was up in Boston this past September, I took the opportunity to purchase the book, and because it was less than 200 pages, decided to read it for the October readathon.
Big mistake. Haven't I learned that sometimes the shortest books pack the biggest punch? It took something like 9 hours to read 160 some odd pages. And by the end I was getting irritated. So I don't know how fair this review will be. Let's see how it goes.
Synopsis: In London, during WWII, a novelist named Maurice Bendrix engages in an affair with a married woman, Sarah Miles. Sarah is bored with her proper, fuddy-duddy husband, and finds the missing passion in Maurice. The affair endures a number of fights and jealousy, some sneaking and near-misses with Sarah's husband, but their passion never ceases. During one illicit afternoon, however, as Maurice leaves the bedroom to investigate a noise, he is crushed by a door in a bombing. Thinking Maurice dead, Sarah vows to God that she will give up the affair and dedicate her life to Him if He lets Maurice live. When Maurice wakes up after only being knocked unconscious, Sarah believes it is a miracle and vows to keep her word.
Years later, Maurice still grieves over the loss of his true love, but begins to develop a close friendship with Sarah's husband. It is only when he gets his hands on Sarah's diary does he fully appreciate the sacrifices made and the extent of Sarah's feelings.
In this powerful yet reflective novel, Greene explores themes of love and loathing of self, love of others, love of God, and of sacrifice.
My thoughts: In many ways, this book was masterful. In so few pages, there were many complicated emotions and themes. I was touched by the immense love between Maurice and Sarah, although it is not immediately obvious. In my mind, I figured this was all about the sex. Not until later do we understand the depths of the emotion.
I was also impressed with Sarah, who had so few scruples that she cheated on her husband, SOMETIMES WHILE HER HUSBAND WAS IN THE NEXT ROOM, yet ultimately remained true to her impulsive promise to God, even at the expense of the only man she ever really loved.
I was entranced with the friendship between Sarah's husband and Maurice. It was precious that they both found common ground in their love for one woman. Maybe a little weird, but precious.
And yes, the whole thing was heart-breaking. I felt like a large animal was sitting on my chest for most of the book. This book was heavy, heavy, heavy. Not what you would want for a readathon.
I had some complaints. I felt that the repeated harping on self-hate and the role of God in Maurice's situation was so heavy-handed. Around the 8th or 10th time these topics were addressed, ruminated over, and dwelled upon, over and over again, it grew very old with me. I really got the point after the first or second time it was discussed! Perhaps if I had read this over a period of a week, in small doses, I wouldn't have been so overwhelming. Under the circumstances, I can't say I loved this book.
I do intend to watch the movie (movies?). I think this is a perfect book for film, and I believe I will find it much more enjoyable. Does anyone have any advice on whether I should see the 1955 version or the 1999 version?
3 out of 5 stars