The End of the Affair
- Reviewed by Florence Scott
- Published on July 4th, 2011 at 1:12a.m.
The End of the Affair – by Graham Green
The London blitz provides a suitably chaotic backdrop for Graham Green’s novel The End of The Affair. The tale is of the writer Bendrix, and his secret relationship with Sarah, a married woman who despite being unfaithful to her husband is determined to be faithful to her marriage. Consumed by an obsession with the imminent and inevitable end of this affair, Bendrix drives Sarah away, only to have his feelings reawakened by a chance meeting with her husband two years later. In retaliation to the idea of Sarah having another lover, he then decides to hire Parkis, a private detective, to investigate her secrets - only to find out that her new lover isn’t who first thought.
On the very first page of The End of The Affair, the narrator assures the reader of the book’s purpose – “a record of hate far more than of love”. The title of course suggests a combination, and the book definitely delivers them both in high doses. Perhaps a more prominent emotion in the novel, however, is Jealousy.
The novel explores the usual emotions associated with books surrounding affairs – the aforementioned love, hate and jealousy, as well as intimacy, loss and loneliness. But what gives The End Of The Affair an extra literary tier over its adulterous contemporaries is its exploration of both lack of, and belief in God - in particular Roman Catholicism; a subject known to be important to the author. This plays a much bigger part in the novel than probably first considered, and crops up perhaps more than the subject of sexual desire, contrasting the novel with the Lady Chatterleys of the adulterous book genre.
There is also an element of mystery, with the addition of the investigation into Sarah’s life and Parkis’ gradual discoveries. Even more interesting is the avoidance of a linear narrative – instead the narrator weaves in and out of the past and present, and as Parkis uncovers more about Sarah’s life Bendrix relives more of the painful memories of their affair.
What makes The End of the Affair perhaps so emotive and vivid is its parallels with the real authors life – the book is based loosely on Greene’s mistress Catherine, whom the book is dedicated to.
This definitely isn’t a novel that one should read for entertainment; in most part it is a tale of almost vulgar misery. Look past that (almost) inescapable despair though, and it is a well-crafted, intelligent, beautifully emotive novel.