Starting off the year with a consideration of love, hate, jealousy, faith, and disbelief. What’s more, Colin Firth did the audiobook, which was lovely!
I’ve read two other Greenes – Heart of the Matter and The Quiet American – both of which were excellent. This was also excellent…but I’m sorry to say, it wore thin by the end. (Spoilers ahead.)
Maurice Bendrix had an affair with Sarah Miles, who is married to Henry. After Sarah abruptly ends their affair, Bendrix is consumed by hatred, love, jealousy, etc–and this is the first half of the book. It’s lovely. Greene is always so insightful, so spot on when he describes internal conflicts and emotions.
Bendrix hires a private investigator who discovers Sarah’s journal; upon reading it, Bendrix discovers the reason for her departure: keeping her promise to God that if He spared Maurice after a bomb knocked him out (we are, I forgot to mention, during WWII), she would stop seeing Maurice. So she did.
I enjoyed the prose–and the plot–until the point of view shifted from Bendrix to Sarah’s journals. At that point it all became just a bit too…I don’t know. It felt dry and forced, like Sarah wasn’t a fully formed character, just a means to discuss Catholicism. It all felt heavy handed to me, particularly the end where I think miracles were supposed to have happened? idk. But Bendrix’s emotions (in the first half of the book) felt real and authentically tortured. Perhaps Greene was just better at writing first person men? Henry and Maurice’s grief is described so well I instantly empathized (although I’ve never ended such a sordid affair myself!), but in Sarah’s voice, Greene’s usual pithy insights weren’t tied together as well, and I found myself caring less and less for each character.
5 stars for Colin Firth’s reading, because it is truly a delight. But 3.5 for the overall book experience, especially when compared to Heart of the Matter or Quiet American.