The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
Audio Book performed by Colin Firth
Audible Inc, 2012
Winner Audie Award Winner 2013
“I have a new favourite male author, and The End of the Affair is now on my list of favourite books. It’s hard to explain why I loved the book so much, when the both topic and the characters are so despicable and the storyline so tragic. Infidelity is nothing to celebrate, but then the book is certainly not a recommendation for the practice. Greene unpacks the painful consequences–the hatred, the jealousy, the insecurity with such candour.
The eponymous affair happens during the Blitz on London, and while the bombs were falling, blowing apart buildings and streets, the two clandestine lovers were simultaneously destroying themselves. Bendrix, the character from whose point of view the story is told, is horrid throughout the story–self-absorbed, unkind, rude. Still, I couldn’t help sympathising with him in some things. That love and hatred became so meshed and indistinguishable for him is the price he paid. The characters’ wrestlings with God and faith were apt, given the magnitude of their passion.
A one-word summation of the book: devastating.
I was intrigued by this writer, mainly because his description of jealousy was so intimate and mind-blowingly vivid–HD, if mere black and white words can be such a thing. I did a quick Wikipedia search on this Graham Greene person and discovered he suffered with (what was probably) Bipolar Disorder. Ah, of course. Once again I found myself envying a writer’s madness. (I’ll blog about that one day.) Greene was himself a serial womaniser and an uneasy Catholic, both themes this book explores.
The writing was phenomenal–rhythmic and spare. I bookmarked several turns of phrase. One that I particularly loved was Bendrix’s self-appraisal in a moment of self-loathing. “…and my self-pity and hatred walked hand-in-hand across the darkening Commons, like idiots without a keeper.”
I listened to Audible’s audio recording of the End of the Affair, performed by Colin Firth: Sheer brilliance. The performance of each character was perfect, with Henry Miles (the impotent husband) and the private investigator being stand-outs in my mind.” I am closing with this recommendation of the audio version. If you’re curious about listening to books, I recommend you try this one. Firth’s performance is impeccable.