“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses a moment of experience from which to look ahead”
Isn’t that a beautiful starting? I think I fell head over heels in love with the book the minute I read it. However, as it often happens, it was easier to fall in love than to stay in love.
The novel is as the title explains the deconstruction of the end of a relationship. Maurice Bendrix, a writer who has not quite met the commercial success, spends a good time obsessing over why the love of his life, Sarah, has abandoned him.
Sarah is unhappily married to Henry Miles. Maurice is besotted with her, and both of them start on a whirlwind romance during the heights of war, until one day when Maurice’s apartment is bombed. Both survive but not the relationship. Maurice does not know why, all he knows that Susan starts avoiding him and moves away from his life. A chance encounter with Henry, brings back all the rage and pain of the past, and when he meets Sarah he realized that she has found a new love. A jealous obsession takes hold of him. Very soon he realizes that Sarah has discovered religion and it’s God that’s keeping them apart.
In essence, The End of the Affair is beautiful love story. There are moments where your heart just reaches out to the desperate situation that Maurice and Sarah in.
Maurice is the most believable character in the book. Grahame’s description of an obsessed and jilted lover are touching and painful. Sarah is the more enigmatic character and it’s difficult to pin her down. I am not a religious person and though I understood her reasons to turn to God I could not understand her Catholic guilt. Having been a serial adulteress, I find it strange that she has the courage to cheat, but not leave her husband and walk out an unhappy marriage.
I think my fundamental problem with the novel was the theme of religion. I am not a religious person and though I believe in God, he generally does not interfere with my day-to-day living. Neither is Maurice, so when he discovers that what is keeping Sarah away from him is God he is understandably devastated. I think Sarah is very confused woman. On one hand she is racked with the guilt of cheating on Henry, but on the other she is deeply in love with Maurice. She ardently believes that she owes a debt to God for Maurice’s life, and she thinks God can help her find a solution to this. It’s at this point where I find Sarah’s motivation unclear. Sometimes I just wanted to yell at her – “Get with him already”
The writing is impeccable and something that I have come to expect from Greene. He can put so much misery in a sentence and yet make you smile at the end of it. Greene’s The End of the Affair is dedicated to C. That is probably a hint to the autobiographical nature of the work, for C is none other than “Lady Catherine Watson” with whom Greene had an affair, but I don’t know if Greene was as miserable with Lady C as Maurice was with Sarah.