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The End of the Affair (1951)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,3641671,431 (3.94)457
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MONICA ALI The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
3.5 ( )
  TheScribblingMan | Jul 29, 2023 |
Published in 1951 Graham Greene's The end of the Affair is a book that evokes that epoch in a London suburb, just at the end of the war. Greene talks about the common which is in fact Clapham common a place I used to know well and perhaps its main theme is an adulterous affair a situation I also know well and so I felt right at home with this book. The quality of the writing astounded me as soon as I started reading, but perhaps that was because of all the 1951 science fiction books I have been reading recently. The major themes of adultery and catholic faith, which caused something of a scandal at the time of publication, may not appear so relevant in the 21st century, but the thoughts and feeling of the characters involved remain as vivid as when the book first hit the streets.

Having said that the quality of the writing, characterisation and setting are superb, there are many other things that make this novel, worth stepping back to appreciate. Greene writes this novel in the first person. Bendrix (Greene?) is a novelist living from his royalties and advances from his publishing company. Bendrix has an affair with Sarah who is married to Henry a high flying civil servant, Greene in real life had an affair with Lady Catherine Walston who refused to leave her husband because of her catholic faith and Greene deliberately merges himself with his central character to the effect that it is not clear at times who is speaking. It is like he is taking authorial intervention to another level, mixing some stream of conscious techniques, with flashbacks, but never losing sight of the story; for example this could be Greene or Bendrix talking:

"When young one builds up habits of work that one believes will last a lifetime and withstand any catastrophe. Over twenty years I have probably averaged five hundred words a day for five days a week. I can produce a novel in a year, and that allows time for revision and the correction of the typescript. I have always been very methodical and when my quota of work is done, I break off even in the middle of a scene."

At other times Bendrix confesses that he is having trouble with bringing one of his characters to life in his latest novel and one immediately thinks of Richard Smythe in this novel; an atheist Hyde Park Corner speaker who Sarah visits from time to time, or perhaps the catholic priest who always has the right answer to questions of faith.

Using the first person technique enables Greene to pour into his writing all the needs, the worries, the ego, questions of identity, and lust of a man who falls in love and hates himself and his lover for the situation in which he finds himself. Bendrix is all too human, his actions at times are not those of a considerate human being, but he knows this and refuses to stop himself; because he is in love; Bendrix says to Richard Smythe; lovers aren't reasonable are they:

‘Can you explain away love too?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘The desire to possess in some, like avarice: in others the desire to surrender, to lose the sense of responsibility, the wish to be admired. Sometimes just the wish to be able to talk, to unburden yourself to someone who won’t be bored. The desire to find again a father or a mother. And of course under it all the biological motive.’

Bendrix has a love/hate relationship with Henry the husband of Sarah, he is intensely jealous of Henry's fortune in being able to share his life with Sarah, although he knows that their relationship is now platonic. Of course writing in the first person does not give Green insights into Sarahs real thoughts and feelings until later on in the novel when he gets sight of her personal diary.

At this stage in Greene's life and work, his flirtation with catholicism was almost all consuming and so when writing in the first person in a semi-autobiographical style in this novel, there is no surprise when a catholic priest enters the story. His words and advice get in the way of Bendrix needs, he becomes a frustration and Bendrix cannot understand his faith and influence on Sarah. It is a dichotomy that looms large at the end of the novel as it does in many of Greene's books and makes this novel personal to the author. There is also something supernatural that hovers over this story, taking it out of the realism that serves for much of the book. It is this supernatural element that did not quite ring true for me and somehow dated the novel, in not a good way.

It is a book that I could not put down and when this happens I find that I probably read a little too quickly. However having read many of Greene's novels I am hoping I did not miss too much. 4.5 stars. ( )
1 vote baswood | Apr 4, 2023 |
Definitely not my cup of tea.

This book starts off being about a love triangle (of sorts) that encompasses unlikable Maurice and angst ridden Sarah and her snore fest of a husband, Henry. The story begins about two years after the affair has ended, but eventually the details of the affair and its demise are revealed. I don't want to spoil the book for other readers, but let's just say that Sarah finds religion mid-affair, and her relationship to God and how it impacts her relationships ends up being the major focus of the book.

As an atheist myself, not only do I find this topic pretty dull, but I really cannot relate well to any of the agonizing about God and what he will and will not condone. The book probably deserves another star for the plotting (well done) than I'm giving it, but because I really couldn't relate to any of the characters nor did I care even a little bit about them, I just couldn't bring myself to award it. For a short book, it read long to me.

Those with strong faith might like this book much better than I did, and I'd be curious to hear from those of you who fit that category and who have read the book.

Let's just put it this way, if you were playing a drinking game, and every time you read the word "God" or "You" you had to do a shot, you'd have to go to the hospital and get your stomach pumped. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
I've long been a Graham Greene fan, but dipping back into this back was a fail. The central premise - of the naughtiness of an affair - hasn't aged well. And as a result, I found it hard to find the characters realistic.
I didn't finish. Maybe I'll go back for another try in the fututre , but . . . ( )
  mbmackay | Jan 29, 2023 |
Listened to Colin Firth read this book, which I believe elevates any book. ;) ( )
  eringill | Dec 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
In "The End of the Affair" the splendidly stupid private detective, Alfred Parkis, and his apprentice son, and the maudlin grifter who is the heroine's mother, equal the best of the seedy supernumeraries of his other novels. It is savage and sad, vulgar and ideal, coarse and refined, and a rather accurate image of an era of cunning and glory, of cowardice and heroism, of belief and unbelief.
Great romantic novels are about pain and hate, and among the greatest is Graham Greene's searing The End of the Affair. It is one of the most forensic and honest analyses of love you will ever read.

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ali, MonicaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cronin, BrianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Firth, ColinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorra, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kitchen, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence.
Leon Bloy
To C.
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A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
Henry had his tray, sitting up against two pillows in his green woollen dressing-gown, and in the room below, on the hardwood floor, with a single cushion for support, and the door ajar, we made love.
I suppose Germany by this time had invaded the Low Countries: the spring like a corpse was sweet with the smell of doom,...
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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MONICA ALI The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.

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