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Like another reviewer, this is my favourite of Greene's books, and one I reread every 5 years or so.

The familiar Greene territory is all here - betrayal, guilt, responsibility, sin and redemption, and the uneasy, unwilling nature of faith, belief and spiritual identity

Unlike the works which are set in foreign or exotic locations, this book is set in a more pedestrian territory, blitz torn London, and whilst 'the affair' of the book is ostensibly one that happens between a man and a woman, the underneath or overriding affair or relationship is that between a man/woman and his or her understanding of God.

This is a very common theme for Greene, and of course mirrors his own relationship with his faith - never easy, never taken for granted, always a sense of the soul wrangling with an accommodation with Divinity.

This is a wonderful and often bleak book, and, with a female as well as a male central character, and the relationship between the sexes as pivotal, it may speak to anyone who has ever fallen in love and found themselves caught in a minefield of conflicting loyalties, secrecy and deception
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on 25 October 2009
It's a delight to see so many 5 and 4-star reviews for this book. Greene was a complicated man, and if his biographers are to be believed, a compromised man whose loyalties were tried and tested beyond the ken of most mortals. Perhaps that's why fidelity, betrayal and trust are such constants in his work.
Admirers of craft will find much in here to ponder - the construction is intricate and beautifully balanced, but never interrupts the unfolding of the story. You don't have to find the plot in the slightest believable as Greene uses the protagonist to voice such concerns in advance - indeed, scepticism is a central theme of the book and the author plays with it, inviting the reader to side with the incredulous, thus guaranteeing interest in the outcome.
Highly recommended.
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The tortured story of Maurice Bendrix's love for Sarah Miles. This novel was apparently a reflection of Greene's own tumultuous love life and he explores the relationship between love, hate, jealousy and admiration. But above all he delves into our relationship with God and how this relationship exists whether or not we believe in Him.

During wartime in London Bendrix and Sarah are having a passionate affair. But following his near death in a bomb blast Sarah breaks off the relationship and Bendrix becomes filled with rage and jealousy. Several years later he agrees to help Sarah's husband to find out if she is being unfaithful to him as she keeps disappearing at odd times with no explanation.

This was hardly the most cheerful or uplifting book I have read all year but it was still very difficult to put down. While none of the three central characters are very likeable the secondary characters are all remarkable. Greene has the knack of introducing characters who worm their way into our consciousness so at by the end we feel we really know them. The private investigator, Parkis and his ailing son, Lance, are both wonderful creations who ultimately play a pivotal role in the plot. The rationalist Smythe could have been simply a comic character but he is treated sympathetically and is rather likeable.

It is certainly a passionate book - but it also contains elements of savagery and cruelty as well as insights into the social behaviour of the time.
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on 3 March 2000
It got to me at an emotional level as much as anything I have read in my 52 years (I originally typed 'tears' - was this Freudian or just qwerty?) Bendrix's obsessive love / hate for Sarah (and also for her god) - both of which are reciprocated, in different ways, by Sarah - will probably hook you just as they did me - especially so if you can identify with Bendrix's and Sarah's tight-assed, 1950s, oh-so-English repression. I couldn't put this perfectly crafted 190-pager down; I found myself tripping at the top of escalators, exclaiming in the street, crying in the train. Read it.
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on 5 December 2004
A book for anyone who has ever been left so heartbroken and frustrated that they can't even speak without launching into a bitter lament against such superficial feelings as love, faith and devotion. Greene's genius was always his ability to create lasting and believable characters that jostled with issues that were central to the writer, but also, could be understood and re-interpreted by the reader. In The End of the Affair, it is his own sense of heartbreak following a real-life affair he began during the war that acts as the central crux of the emotional and heartbreaking story, that is here, taken further by elements of fictitious fantasy, religious guilt and what must be one of the greatest uses of a self-referential narrative arc ever developed in post-war-literary history.
Here, Greene recasts himself as the dolorous writer Bendrix, who, without even realising it until it is too late, has fallen into a passionate and illicit affair with Sarah, the wife of his meek (and perhaps impotent) friend and associate Henry. Greene juggles the perspectives so that each of this troika get to express their feelings (which are actually the varied conscious voices of the author), in order to further the story, as well as acting as something of an essay into infidelity, obsession, guilt and bereavement. The story could have easily fallen into the realms of melodrama, prefiguring those turgid disease-of-the-week films like Love Story (and so on), but Greene is able to break down the melancholy with elements of a detective story, with Bendrix involving himself in unravelling an affair that turns out to be nothing but an after shock.
There are also elements of black comedy, an intelligent analysis of catholic-angst and an interesting use of character perspective, as Greene changes the view of the story mid-way from Bendrix to Sarah (then later, back again!) in order to tell the story from both points-of-view... a device that allows Greene to look at the two disparate sides of the tale, and also, to further develop the subtle nuances of the characters. The writing is fantastic throughout, with Greene ably conjuring the decaying embers of Post World War II London; whilst the blitz-set love scenes burn with a passion and intensity that few British writers (of Greene's generation) could equate (for more genius, see Brighton Rock!).
The End of the Affair is a great book that still manages to convey that all-important sense of loss, guilt and sadness with a vitriol that seems fierce enough to tear through a brick wall, whilst screaming in the face of pious notions of reminisce and forgiveness (in a typically 50's 'very-English' sort-of-way, of course). As others have said before, certain notions in regards to the politics and sociology of the piece have dated in the decades that have passed since the book's first publication, but this is hardly cause for despair. The book's reason for being has always been about the relationship between the three characters, the notions discussed above and the emotional connection created between the story, the characters and the reader. On these counts, The End of the Affair is a relevant today as it was when first created.
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on 5 January 2000
Have read this novel during the sixties during my University years in Coimbra (Portugal) and became unconditional fan of Greene of whom I read since all the production. The end of the Affair is is in my view his best! While in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) last week I found one of its first editions in portuguese and bought it again. The feeling I like the most is a disturbing one: how a non believer like Sarah sticks to a promise to a God she doesn't want to believe in and how this absurdity becomes her highjest proof of love - for Bendix and for God! The fact that we know little of ourselves our unconscious beliefs, was highly disturbing to me... Recommended story to everyone who asks him(her)self on who he or she really is though it cannot respond to any question, just add more. Excellent and disturbing book.
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on 26 October 2014
This is not a book that you can relax with. It is not one of my favourites of Graham Greene’s books. It is a well written book and deserves credit for the fact the author has tried to give the viewpoints of different characters about the affair. But sometimes it is annoying as you go back and forth in time.

It is a grim book, not just because the end of any affair is likely to be sad. Although there must have been some pleasure in the relationship between Henry and his wife Sarah, and between Sarah and her lover Maurice, the pleasure is overladen with actions and thoughts related to traits of human beings such as jealousy and revenge. It is worth reflecting on this after you have finished reading the book as this is one of Graham Greene’s strengths. Sometimes it is far too complex but we should not be amazed at the lengths which human beings can go driven by jealousy. The author also poses questions such as is jealousy derived from a desire to possess what another human being has got?

Other issues are also introduced such as the place of religion and God, and dependence and control in relation to human relations. If one looks at the book as an analysis of human behaviour, it seems profound. But as a story of an affair and how it ended, it sometimes lacks credulity.
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on 23 May 2000
I'm lost for words with this book. Lets say simply that I believe it to be one of the best love stories ever written. And you don't need to remember 50's England to enjoy it, ponder with its accurate observations on human nature, get irritated by too much emphasis on God, and cry with the human tragedy of the characters, captured in the most beautifully crafted and simplest prose.
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on 25 July 2008
This is a book about darkness and light, but mostly darkness.

It is about jealousy, vengeance, bitterness, loathing - I could go on. A deeply passionate and angry man, the narrator falls in love with a married woman who then inexplicably leaves him one day after a close shave with a bomb in war-torn London.

Then follows his quest to uncover why she left. I don't want to spoil what comes next by telling any more, but it is such a moving book. I was moved to tears by the beauty of it when I first read it, aged 15, and it still has the same effect, some (quite a few) years later.
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I fell in love with this book from the first page, the beautiful writing far outweighs the somewhat depressing underlying story of the end of the affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah. This tale is told from the protagonist’s viewpoint, interestingly, some years after this defining mark in his life and it is quickly apparent that Bendrix (he is a man known by his surname) is still trying to make sense of the strong feelings, of both love and hate he still harbours.

The quality of Graham Greene’s writing was simply brilliant. My copy had an introduction by Monica Ali that I was reading out of curiosity soon after receiving the book and despite already having started another book I turned to the first page and I simply couldn’t stop reading, fortunately this is a fairly slim book at only 160 pages or so.

So if the quality of the writing that had me hooked, this was closely followed by the description of life in London at the time of, and immediately after, the Second World War which for me was fascinating. Parkis the Private Detective who along with his son trail Sarah on Bendrix’s behest, finds the person she is visiting by the powdering of a doorbell which is so much more romantic than rummaging through her rubbish or hacking into Facebook.

This book is as the back cover says ‘One of the most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody’s language’ William Faulkner. The truth is in part because this novel holds up as a mirror a myriad of human actions that all of us have surely observed, and too many of us have participated in…
How quickly love can turn from:
“…the moment of absolute trust and absolute pleasure, the moment when it was impossible to quarrel because it was impossible to think.”
to
“I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour.”
When at this point Bendrix begins sabotaging the affair, pressing Sarah for more, imagining her unfaithfulness with others can only hasten the end that he so fears.

I struggled more with the aspect of Catholicism that threads through the book, there is lots of philosophising about God which would normal have me closing the book, but because this was a book I was experiencing rather than simply ‘reading’ the quote that follows made me think more deeply about why encountering strong religious views has the power to affect me so much as much as it does…

“I hate you, God. I hate you as though you actually exist.”

I am going to finish my review here (because I need to stop somewhere and I could write about this book for ages) with a simply statement: if you haven’t read this book, you should, there is simply so much power packed between the pages of this slim novel it blew me away and I know that this is one book I will be re-reading very soon.
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