Graham Greene’s masterful novel of love and betrayal in World War II London is “undeniably a major work of art” (The New Yorker).
Maurice Bendrix, a writer in Clapham during the Blitz, develops an acquaintance with Sarah Miles, the bored, beautiful wife of a dull civil servant named Henry. Maurice claims it’s to divine a character for his novel-in-progress. That’s the first deception. What he really wants is Sarah, and what Sarah needs is a man with passion. So begins a series of reckless trysts doomed by Maurice’s increasing romantic demands and Sarah’s tortured sense of guilt. Then, after Maurice miraculously survives a bombing, Sarah ends the affair—quickly, absolutely, and without explanation. It’s only when Maurice crosses paths with Sarah’s husband that he discovers the fallout of their duplicity—and it’s more unexpected than Maurice, Henry, or Sarah herself could have imagined.
Adapted for film in both 1956 and 1999, Greene’s novel of all that inspires love—and all that poisons it—is “singularly moving and beautiful” (Evelyn Waugh).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We adore the books that Graham Greene once called his “entertainments,” like the chilling crime thriller Brighton Rock or the rollicking spy tale Our Man in Havana. But the British novelist was also a writer of great emotional complexity, and the heart-wrenching The End of the Affair may be his finest novel. The affair in question—a torrid wartime romance between novelist Maurice and Sarah, the impetuous wife of a civil servant—is almost beside the point of Greene’s real story, which is about how religious faith can change people’s lives, and not necessarily for the better. Told in flashback from Maurice’s deeply conflicted point of view, the book details Sarah’s sudden religious conversion and its tragic aftermath with walloping intensity. Greene writes about faith and romance with lyricism and depth—whatever your beliefs, the humanity at the heart of is novel will leave a profound impression.
Perhaps no one told Graham Greene that a Romeo needs a Juliet. Once the author had killed off the female lead there was precious little to hold the reader’s interest.
But for the abysmal editing, the film with Julianne Moore might have been a lot better than the book.
Still, the book’s big flaw was trying to keep the readers’ interest with Maurice’s god-talk after Sarah’s removal.
One of his best books, hauntingly suspenseful. I guessed wrong how it would end.
Love may be a myth we tell ourselves. But is love and compassion really different? Can true love exist without pain? This book questions the very meaning of relationships with friends, lovers and God.