The End of the Affair by Graham Greene is a novel that takes place during and after World War II about the affair between a writer, Maurice, and a civil servant’s wife, Sarah. Sarah suddenly ends the affair with Maurice and so he becomes filled with hate and jealousy. Because Sarah’s own husband suspects Sarah of having an affair a year later, Maurice hires a detective to find out how she has been spending her time away from home. Through this detective, Maurice learns quite a deal about Sarah’s feelings and beliefs.
It is said that as Graham was having an affair with Lade Catherine Walston at the time of writing the story, that the novel is loosely based on his own life. The book is as well dedicated to “C” in British publications and Catherine in American publications that this lends credence to this idea. This fact might also explain why the book seems to be largely introspective. It seemed to me that a large majority of the book was contemplative. Maurice explores his feelings of jealousy and hatred. Sarah is on a mission to understand love and faith. Even Henry, Sarah’s husband, spends some time delving into the topics of devotion and loyalty. Because we are mainly listening in to the main characters thoughts and desires, it surprises me that this novel has been made into two different movies where displaying emotion and one’s thoughts is difficult.
What I liked about the book is that there is clear passion between Maurice and Sarah but it is not ooey-gooey but rather it is very stoic and in a way practical. Maurice and Sarah feel drawn to each other so they start a relationship. An event occurs that causes circumstances in their relationship to change, so it is over. Perhaps it seems stoic to me because I was listening to the book and the characters were voiced with English accents, which, to me, comes across as a stoic and serious accent at times. It did seem the actions of the characters were practical. I wanted her so I kissed her. I hated her so I hated her husband as well. I was jealous of her so I hired a private investigator. There was very little hemming and hawing. I also like the format of the book. First we hear what Maurice thinks through his narration and then we hear what Sarah has to say through a diary. I was hoping that we would even get a glimpse of Henry’s thoughts on what is transpiring but that was not part of the story.
I watched the 1955 movie version of the novel that starred Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson on Amazon Instant Video. As I am a big classic movie fan, I decided to go with the older version of the movie over the 1999 movie that stars Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. I was a bit disappointed because I felt that the movie seemed rushed and that there was not enough emphasis on the emotions in the novel. There is also a much bigger discussion about belief in God in the book than there is in the movie. There is the question of what makes a person a believer in God. Is it their baptism, their profession of faith, the way they live their life, or the topics they discuss with their friends? Also, in the book, there is a deeper discussion of the fact that even if I profess that I hate God that I still believe there is a God thus making me a believer. These are interesting topics for a novel but perhaps they are difficult to explain on the silver screen.
Even though I do feel like the 1955 movie version rushed through the novel’s content, I would say that the movie didn’t change much of the story. The actors did a nice job conveying the story. I do wish that they had spent a little more time with the character of Henry in the movie because I find his position in the story interesting. I read that Julianne Moore was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1999 film so I still might rent the later version. I did take a look at the plot for the movie and it seems that some changes in the story were made, which I don’t really like. I am sure that both movies falls short of grasping what makes the novel so great.
I enjoyed this novel, which was wonderfully narrated by Colin Firth. He does such a dignified British accent. I would recommend the book to people who like a bit of history and British culture. Also, in a strange way, this is a romance novel that would appeal to those that enjoy reading about couples desiring to be together. It is not a terribly long book so it is rather easy to get through.