Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The End of the Affair - Graham Greene

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                 

18 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It does sound like a perfect movie. I have not seen either version, but would be happy to co-watch with you! :--)

Teacher/Learner said...

The newer movie version with Ralph Fiennes & Julianne Moore is really good. I haven't read the book but the story seemed to work very well as a movie. I love Brighton Rock also by Graham Greene if you haven't read it yet.

Zibilee said...

I hadn't heard much about this book, and except for the title, knew very little about it. It does sound rather heavy, and like it was a hard book to get in line with for the readathon. I do think that your review has piqued my interest, and that I will probably try to pick it up at some point if I can. I will have to let you know what I think of it when I do. Great review on this one today!

bermudaonion said...

Sometimes I have a harder time with older books - it just takes me a while to get into their writing style.

Ti said...

This is an odd book choice for you. Not your usual fare. I tend to like older books but I have to clear my head for them and that't not always possible.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

It’s definitely not a light read. I picked it up last year and didn’t realize I’d seen the 1999 film version about 10 years ago. I loved some of the writing, but I did find the religious bit repetitive. I thought the relationship between Sarah's husband and Maurice was one of the most interesting aspects of the book.

Anna said...

Hmm...I'm intrigued, yet I get very annoyed when the author feels the need to beat readers over the head over and over to get a point across.

heidenkind said...

Yay, you read it! This has been on my wishlist for a while, too, but my library doesn't have it either. :(

I've never seen the movie, but I did see a documentary on the affair this book was based on. Really fascinating; I think the woman in question was related to Princess Diana somehow (fun fact).

Nymeth said...

I've also been meaning to read this for a long time... it sounds like I'd better save it for when I'm in the mood for something slow and ponderous.

caite said...

I have read some Green, but not this one. an I may hold off awhile now. :-)

Melody said...

Interesting! I'll have to check it out.

Trisha said...

My problem with short, dense books is my horrid tendency to plow through them as quickly as possible. I'm more a chugger than a sipper I guess. :) Maybe if I read this while reading something else and only took it a few pages at a time....

Amy said...

Thanks for the review of this Sandy. I tried to read this a few years ago and never finished. I may give it another go sometime in the future.

Jessica said...

I did like this one but I felt overall that Greene was trying to stuff too much into 200 pages. It had alot of themes for such a short book.

reviewsbylola said...

I can see how this one packs a big punch!

farmlanebooks said...

This has been on my TBR list forever too! I had high hopes I'd enjoy it, so am disappointed to see that you only awarded it 3 stars. I like your descriptions of it as a powerful, heavy book, but I do worry about the word "reflective" - that is normally a big warning sign for me! I'll ensure I read it slowly if I do ever dig it out.

Kathleen said...

I've not seen the movie or read the book but I'd be interested to give them both a try. I think if I am in the right mood I will enjoy the book.

Jenners said...

I could see that this might actually work better as a movie than a book … how heartbreaking and difficult the emotions it deals with!