Written in 1951 post World War II, The End of the Affair is a grim story about love, trust, and faith. I started my reading without any knowledge about this book or the author. I have assumed that this is simply about painful love affair. It was started by love affair, indeed, but it ended much more than that.
During and at the end of World War II, Maurice Bendrix, a novelist, made friend with Henry Miles, and had an adulterous affair with his wife—Sarah Miles. The affair quickly turned to love and hate relationship, poisoned by Maurice’s severe jealousy because Sarah refused to divorce Henry despite of their loveless marriage. One day a bomb blasted Maurice’s apartment where the adulterous couple was spending the night. They both survived, but after the incident Sarah broke off the affair without apparent reason. Two years later Maurice accidently met Henry, who has begun to suspect Sarah’s affair. Himself burned with passionate jealousy, Maurice took initiative to hire a private detective to find Sarah’s lover. The detective found her diary which revealed that when the bomb blasted, Sarah has made a promise to God not to see Maurice again if He let him live.
Interestingly, this book does not speak about guilt, which is usually common theme for love affair stories. From the beginning of Maurice and Sarah’s affair, there were these confusing tugs between love and hate, joy and sorrow, and between fleshly love and God’s love. They seem to not understand what or which one were their feelings at times. At first I thought that Greene was talking about post war depression that leaves men with emptiness in soul and apathetic behavior towards religion or God. But after that part, Greene seems to fling us to opposite direction, and end the story with a twist.
When the story ended, I was just: “What was that really about, then?” After three-quarter of the book which were full of hatred and disbelieve in God that was quite disheartening, suddenly I realized that maybe Greene is speaking about faith. I am still not 100% sure about this, but one thing captured me in the end: the fact that baptism received in childhood has the same power as when one receive it consciously as adult. The child could wander far away from the right path from that moment, but it will still be there; and in the right moment the adult version of the child will eventually get to it—though the road might be long and winding, and at times seems impossible. And of course, it needs one’s cooperation with God’s will to let it happen, for anyway, He has imposed us with freewill.
It’s quite a powerful work from Greene, but reading it has not been a pleasant time for me, so…
Final verdict: 3,5 / 5