The End of the Affair

Graham Greene

The End of the Affair
United Kingdom
1 December 2004

The End of the Affair

Graham Greene

The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.

With an introduction by Monica Ali   


You’ll know what it’s like to experience something as a younger person: a film, a book, a place, and then to long remember it as wonderful. Perfect, perhaps. You hold its lofty status sacrosanct for years, only to venture back into such a film or book and find that with the passing of time or the added layers of sophistication (snobbery) in you, it has rotted behind your back. So it was with some trepidation that I read The End of the Affair again, a book I’d always cited when asked that impossible question: What’s your favourite book? (A little like being asked what your favourite country is. I just like travelling, don’t make me choose one!) But re-read it I did, and found that I still love this novel with goosepimply gusto.

We all read for different parts of the same reasons. If you read for prose, for instance, you’ll love The End of the Affair. Frequently I shuddered, the language sending me staring away from the page, looking and feeling like I’d been bonked on the head. Greene’s writing in this book is, well, stunning. And the characterisation so believable, by virtue perhaps of how brave, harsh, and cold it is. Perspicacious, too. If you read more for narrative though, you’ll also love this book. Greene’s only novel in the first-person, we hear almost entirely from Bendrix who, through a chance encounter, is thrust back into memories of a long, passionate, but abruptly ended affair with Sarah. It’s Sarah’s limp husband, Henry, that Bendrix runs into – Henry confessing he fears Sarah is straying. We can barely watch nor look away as Bendrix, ostensibly for Henry, hires a private investigator to follow Sarah. Thus reigniting Bendrix’s hateful yearning as he moves between remembering the affair and jealously pursuing details of his ‘replacement’.

If, however, you read for the insights another’s struggle can shed on your own, this book is for you too. Closely aligned to Greene’s ‘famous’ affair with Lady Catherine Woolston (a lot like Sarah), the work itself is dedicated to a ‘C’. I mention this because it validates for me why this novel feels so extraordinarily authentic. The End of the Affair is a wonderful book on faith in all its forms; a book about the gossamer distance between love and hate; a book about the pointless convolutions of desire, leading us up the garden path to nowhere. A book that unveils the intense bottleneck of what it is to be human: impassioned, confused, afraid, alive, and yet facing the inevitable futility.

Whenever I feel I have found truth in a novel, I always decide I’ve found the writer. I decide that a story feels true for me because it was somehow true for the writer. But sitting back sated from reading Greene, I felt that perhaps it was he who had so adroitly found me. But I also rediscovered the ‘me’ that first read this vintage great all those years ago. And he was right, you know. It’s still my favourite country.

Jon Bauer is the author of

This item is in-stock at 5 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.