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The End of the Affair (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 28, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Set in London during and just after World War II, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is a pathos-laden examination of a three-way collision between love of self, love of another, and love of God. The affair in question involves Maurice Bendrix, a solipsistic novelist, and a dutifully married woman, Sarah Miles. The lovers meet at a party thrown by Sarah's dreary civil-servant husband, and proceed to liberate each other from boredom and routine unhappiness. Reflecting on the ebullient beginnings of their romance, Bendrix recalls: "There was never any question in those days of who wanted whom--we were together in desire." Indeed, the affair goes on unchecked for several years until, during an afternoon tryst, Bendrix goes downstairs to look for intruders in his basement and a bomb falls on the building. Sarah rushes down to find him lying under a fallen door, and immediately makes a deal with God, whom she has never particularly cared for. "I love him and I'll do anything if you'll make him alive.... I'll give him up forever, only let him be alive with a chance.... People can love each other without seeing each other, can't they, they love You all their lives without seeing You."

Bendrix, as evidenced by his ability to tell the story, is not dead, merely unconscious, and so Sarah must keep her promise. She breaks off the relationship without giving a reason, leaving Bendrix mystified and angry. The only explanation he can think of is that she's left him for another man. It isn't until years later, when he hires a private detective to ascertain the truth, that he learns of her impassioned vow. Sarah herself comes to understand her move through a strange rationalization. Writing to God in her journal, she says:

You willed our separation, but he [Bendrix] willed it too. He worked for it with his anger and his jealousy, and he worked for it with his love. For he gave me so much love, and I gave him so much love that soon there wasn't anything left, when we'd finished, but You.
It's as though the pull toward faith were inevitable, if incomprehensible--perhaps as punishment for her sin of adultery. In her final years, Sarah's faith only deepens, even as she remains haunted by the bombing and the power of her own attraction to God. Set against the backdrop of a war-ravaged city, The End of the Affair is equally haunting as it lays forth the question of what constitutes love in troubling, unequivocal terms. --Melanie Rehak --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Undeniably a major work of art...It remains from first to last an almost faultless display of craftsmanship and a wonderfully assured statement of ideas." —The New Yorker

"Singularly moving and beautiful...the relationship of lover to husband with its crazy mutation of pity, hate, comradeship, jealousy, and contempt is superbly described...the heroine is consistently lovable." —Evelyn Waugh

"An absorbing piece of work, passionately felt and strikingly written." —The Atlantic Monthly

"Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair...all have claims to greatness; they are as intense and penetrating and disturbing as an inquisitor's gaze." —John Updike

"Graham Greene was in class by himself.... He will be read and remembered as the ultimate twentieth-century chronicler of consciousness and anxiety." —William Golding


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437988
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

178 of 183 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The story of a woman lost between two men, a husband and a lover, told from the lover's point of view. The plot is dramatic, the characters unwittingly and wittingly involved in one of the most common human stories. Greene's writing style is perfect. There is not a word or an activity wasted, and at the same time the tale is beautifully and compellingly told. This book is an amazing example of the finest literary composition, but it is also fascinating in the acute and at times understated manner in which these three character's psychologies play together to enmesh the hearts of two men and the life of the woman. This is also a spiritual novel, asking questions while at the same time attempting answers. And throughout, there is a strong sense of honesty that one doesn't find in most romantic novels. The characters seem to be real persons, whose lives are not dramatic or dramatized, but related in all their smallness, their dissatisfaction, their quest for understanding, and that inexplicable desire for something more. I was surprised to find that this small book was such a satisfying as well as haunting read. Anyone planning to write fiction, particularly romance (not that silly fluff romance, but something meaningful), should become acquainted with this novel. It tells so much so very well.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Graham Greene's "The End Of The Affair" is one of the most powerful and gripping books I have read all year. If I had to describe in a word or a phrase what the novel is about, I'd say it's about the nature of love. Does love between human beings share the same source as that between Man and his creator ? The question of faith and Catholicism in particular has long been a favourite theme of Greene's and here he digs deep and mines it to the fullest. The novel's unique structure and way the love story between Maurice and Sarah is told with multiple flashbacks gives it an expansive romantic sweep that lends itself to cinematic adaptation. I have yet to see the film version but if it succeeds in capturing the essence of the novel, it promises to be breathtaking. Oddly enough, I detect shades of the grand love affair between Count Almasey and Katherine Clifton in "The English Patient". Just when you think the novel has reached its emotional climax, Greene surprises by going the extra mile to infuse the denouement with a deeply religious flavour that is simply brilliant. The execution is deftly handled, never threatening to overload the love story with heavy duty meaning. "The End Of The Affair" makes for wonderful reading. Don't miss it !
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By TruthWillOut on February 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This story has been described as a "love triangle" between the narrator Bendrix, Sarah, and her husband Henry, but it is really more a story of three people revolving like planets around a fourth, unseen, yet pivotal character--God, whose existence remains to the end neither affirmed nor rejected.
Graham Greene belongs to what I would call the school of nomads and heartbroken cynics. He travelled the world, he viewed it with an intelligent yet humane mixture of compassion and disgust, and he struggled to the end to give man some hope while at the same time viewing man's condition with utterly unsentimental realism. It was a difficult balancing act. Greene was too intelligent to accept the cardboard God of the sentimental and the superstitious, but he realized too that without a belief in some transcendent order in the universe man was liable to destroy himself within the dark tentacles of war, greed, obsession, betrayal, and despair. At the same time, he was acutely aware that this belief in a higher power could itself lead down the very same hole. It is precisely Sarah's belated discovery of faith that ruins any chance of her attaining happiness.
Greene's genius in this novel is to set this grand metaphysical drama of man and faith as a background against the foreground of a passionate, mature romance. These two tragic themes, the impossibility of love and the impossibility of faith, combined with man's absolute inability to live without either, resonate with one another to create an almost unbearably moving work of art. I can't remember the last time I wept reading a novel, but there were moments reading The End of the Affair when a turn of phrase made my throat clench and the tears well in my eyes.
This is a work of power, feeling, intelligence, and nuance. It deserves to be considered one of the great novels of the century. Do not hesitate to read it.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By The MacGuffin on September 12, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was an excellent book. I plowed through it in one evening. A quick but powerful read.

The narrator is a near-successful writer living in London just before the start of WWII. Looking for inspiration for a novel about civil workers, he takes the wife of a fairly important civil worker out for dinner. She is interested in him, and this in turn sparks desire from him. They begin an affair that lasts throughout the war until the day the first V1 rockets fall. She breaks it off suddenly, without any reason known to the narrator. The husband never finds out, wrapped up in his work he does not even realize his marriage is more a friendship than anything.

Two years later, the narrator has had no contact at all with his lover. Until he runs into her troubled husband. They are only acquaintances, but the husband confides in the narrator his suspicions of another man. He thinks his wife is having an affair. The narrator hates his former lover, but jealousy now rears its head again. How could she take yet another lover after him? After their undying promises? He engages a private investigator to follow her.

All of this sounds fairly sordid. And it is. But love, real love, does flow through this novel. How difficult love is. How close love is to hate. How hatred can even be a twisted form of love. The two intense emotions are the flip sides of the same coin.

There are some good observations on the nature of writing itself. The narrator observes that most things are already written by the unconscious before the first word is put on paper. I find that to be true. Walking, sitting around, eating, reading, taking a shower, are all essential writing periods. The narrator has the habit of writing five hundred words a day, then stopping.
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