The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

by Kristopher Cook
Time to Read: 3 minutes

When a book is well written, like The End of the Affair, you can’t help but love it!

Written in 1951 by British writer Graham Greene, The End of the Affair describes a writers affair with a married woman. This plot draws heavily from Greene’s own relationship with Lady Catherine Walston, the wife of Baron Walston who was a former Labour and Social Democratic MP.

This was deciphered from the differing dedication pages in the English and American versions of the book. The English edition states ‘To C’, whereas the American copy reads, ‘To Catherine with love’.

Transcending from romance fiction, much of this book dates back to some of Greene’s other great pieces of work, including The Quiet American. Taking everyday drama and mixing it with the contemporary feel of a masterpiece.

Synopsis

Maurice Bendrix, an aspiring writer, living through the London Blitz of the Second World War, falls for Sarah, the wife of a local Civil Servant, Henry.

Maurice becomes frustrated when Sarah refuses to divorce Henry, further fuelling his jealousy.

During a blitz attack, Maurice’s flat is bombed while he and Sarah are there. Having both survived, Sarah leaves Maurice for no apparent reason.

Later, Henry is seen walking in the common area between their adjacent flats, bringing back his own jealousy. It’s at this point, Maurice hires a private detective to follow Sarah and discover her new secret lover.

In her diary, he learns of her devotion to God, in which she prays that she will not see Maurice again if only he can survive the bombing.

Several astonishing events occur, leaving Maurice to question the meaning of God and his power.

Review of  The End of the Affair

Greene adopts a formal style of writing that’s incredibly easy to read. The sentences flow from chapter to chapter, making the book a breeze to get through.

Add in the fact that the Second World War is taking place alongside the main story, and you always have something going on.

Relationships can be painful, especially when they don’t turn out in the way we hoped or dreamed. This book never shies away from those feelings, detailing Maurice’s account in a detailed, unscrupulous manner.

It’s these feelings that help give him true dimension. Although he’s not the most likeable of characters, he is human, and he only wants for his love to join him.

Themes

A recurring theme throughout is the act of adultery, as you’d expect from a book centred around an affair.

Part of Greene’s ‘Catholic Novels’ series, religion plays a large part in the outcome of the story. This Catholic guilt can be felt by Sarah from the moment of Maurice’s flat being bombed, onwards.

Maurice’s questions of God bring issues of human lives and how we interact with religion; grief, love, and the pain it can inflict on us.

Closing Thoughts

The End of the Affair is an extraordinary book that deals with the emotions brought on by the feeling of love, and the falling out of love. These are two polarising emotions that can either drive us forward or halt us in our tracks.

I’d highly recommend this book to anybody who’s looking for a deeply engaging read that deals with human nature on a devoted level.

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