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.
I’m grateful for Lady Fancifull for suggesting this book to me; it 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.”
“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.