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The Heart Of The Matter [Paperback]

Graham Greene
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 Oct 2004


Scobie, a police officer serving in a wartime West African state, is distrusted, being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery. But then he falls in love, and in doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in, with drastic and tragic consequences.

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The Heart Of The Matter + The End Of The Affair (Vintage Classics) + The Power and the Glory (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478423
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Graham Greene was born in 1904. He worked as a journalist and critic, and in 1940 became literary editor of the Spectator. He was later employed by the Foreign Office. As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography, two of biography and four books for children. He also wrote hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.

Product Description


"The most ingenious, inventive and exciting of our novelists, rich in exactly etched and moving portraits of real human beings" (V. S. Pritchett The Times)

"Greene was a master of characterisation and this book is no exception" (Independent on Sunday)

"In a class by himself - the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man's consciousness and anxiety" (William Golding Independent)

"A superb storyteller with a gift for provoking controversy" (New York Times)

"Greene had the sharpest eyes for trouble, the finest nose for human weaknesses, and was pitilessly honest in his observations... For experience of a whole century he was the man within" (Norman Sherry Independent)

Book Description

Winner of the 1948 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and considered one of the best English language novels of the twentieth century.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of a claim to gratness 20 Oct 2008
Over forty years ago a new English teacher at my school answered a question asked by an eager student. The question was, "What do you think is the greatest novel written in English?" He didn't think for very long before replying, "The Heart Of The Matter."

We academically-inclined youths borrowed Graham Greene's novel from the library and eventually conferred. There were shrugs, some indifference, appreciation without enthusiasm. We were all about sixteen years old.

I last re-read The Heart Of The Matter about twenty-five years ago. When I began it again for the fourth time last week, I could still remember vividly the basics of its characters and plot. Henry Scobie is an Assistant Chief of Police in a British West African colony. It is wartime and he has been passed over for promotion. He is fifty-ish, wordly-wise, apparently pragmatic, a sheen that hides a deeply analytical conscience. Louise, his wife is somewhat unfocusedly unhappy with her lot. She is a devout Catholic and this provides her support, but the climate is getting to everyone. She leaves for a break that Scobie cannot really afford. He accepts debt.

The colony's businesses are run by Syrians. Divisions within their community have roots deeper than commercial competition. There is "trade" of many sorts. There are accusations, investigations, rumours and counter-claims. Special people arrive to look into things. There's a suicide, more than one, in fact, at least one murder, an extra-marital affair, blackmail, family and wartime tragedy.

But above all there is the character of Henry Scobie. He is a man of principle who thinks he is a recalcitrant slob. He is a man of conscience who presents a pragmatic face.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you will want to read again and again 4 Aug 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Heart of the Matter achieves the rare feat of being a riveting page-turner and, at the same time, a thought provoking, serious novel. It is curiously reminiscent of George Orwell's Burmese Days. In both books the hero is an English colonial official in a tropical country with a harsh, unforgiving climate. Each of John Flory of Burmese Days and Henry Scobie of The Heart of the Matter stands out from his contemporaries because of his inherent goodness, his sense of belonging in the colonial outpost and his lack of condescension towards the natives. Where the two novels differ is the fact that The Heart of the Matter is essentially a book about Catholicism.

Scobie is a the Deputy Commissioner of police in a nameless, underdeveloped country in West Africa during World War II. For fifteen years he remains scrupulously honest and incorruptible despite ample opportunity for self-enrichment in the murky commercial environment of the colony. Business is conducted by thoroughly dishonest Syrians who love nothing better than a bent policeman in their pay. Notwithstanding many entreaties from Yusef, a fat, unscrupulous Syrian merchant, Scobie keeps himself clean.

He feels trapped in a loveless marriage to Louise, a pathetic, unattractive, tearful woman, who causes him nothing but anguish. His stern Catholicism does not permit him to contemplate divorce from her and he suffers feelings of guilt about being in some way responsible for her piteous state. Louise's continual weeping and moaning about her unhappiness and the bitter feelings of pity this evokes in Scobie leads him down the path towards self destruction. To ease her suffering - and his own - Scobie compromises his high principals and takes a loan from Yusef to send Louise to South Africa.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How on Earth did I get through this? (Part 4) 9 Nov 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Here's another one I put aside at first but then decided, as part of a New Year's resolution, to return to and finish. When it didn't grab me from the start, as Graham Greene's novels normally do, it was partly because this particular Penguin edition has just about the smallest print it is humanly possible to put to paper and still read.

While beautifully written, of course, it is not Graham Greene's most impressive and convincing novel. The main character, Scobie, is a police inspector in some fictional West African British colony at the outbreak of WWII. This very much reflects Greene's own experiences at the same time. Still, I find it hard to believe in this social environment where no one seems to care or worry even remotely about the situation in Europe. The exact time frame isn't quite clear, but we do move from 'The Phony War' (after the German invasion of Poland) into talk about the Vichy Government (apparently the neighbouring colony is French), meaning that we are well into Battle of Britain times. You would think these people were at least occasionally debating things at home, worrying about relatives, not to mention the fact that at this point it looked very much as though the Germans would win the War. Even from a one hundred percent egotistical point of view this would have changed everything for them. Yet Scobie and his fellow Brits live in their own little world of intrigue, jealousy, matrimonial quibble and career struggle (it's as though they already know it will all end with an Allied victory, as indeed Greene knew at the time he wrote the book). On top of that Scobie, a middle aged married man, falls in love with a nineteen year old girl, still emotionally shaken from the loss of her husband.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Seriously hard work. There is really no story here ...
Seriously hard work. There is really no story here; or one that could be told in a dozen pages. Of course the legendary prose style is elegant and trenchant. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Neil Carmichael
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Another 'great from Graham Greene.
Published 1 month ago by tess
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog, but has some merit
The Heart Of The Matter by Graham Greene was my Book Club's choice this month. It is the third Graham Greene novel I have read after The End Of The Affair and The Human Factor. Read more
Published 2 months ago by R. A. Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars a novel for today
I am ashamed I have not read this before. I bought it because of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie referring to it in Americannah and I could not put it down. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Janet Giles
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, a book to savour, even if its themes are dark and...
Published in 1948, 'The Heart of the Matter' was Graham Greene's first post-war novel, following his wartime service with MI6 under the supervision of one Kim Philby. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MR M H NUTT
5.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the best
I read all of Graham Greene's novels many years ago, and this was one of my favourites. Although I often find that re-reading novels that I loved when I was younger can result in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Phil O'Sofa
3.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking but irritating novel.
I am half way through reading Graham Greene's complete works. As that would suggest I am a great admirer of his talents as a novelist and artist, yet this is my least favourite of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by spinynorman
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing and a compelling story-line
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been casting around for something to read, making two or three false starts (on books which were so unimpressive I gave up on them), and finally... Read more
Published 5 months ago by A Common Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Another work of genius
I don't know how Greene maintained his undeniable gift over all his novels, but he did. I am yet to read one that was badly written or not a brilliant read. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Plenty The Matter
Sorry to be the one-star boor here but this reputed 'seminal' novel is a long way from being that and was picked apart with surgical skill by George Orwell - a far greater writer... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mike Collins
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