Friday, 3 September 2010

Review: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene


  • star1 star1 star1 star1 star1
  • Genre: Modern Classic
  • Published: 1951
  • Pages: 160



The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles ended two years ago, but a chance encounter with her husband and then herself ignites the bed of jealousy again. 

This is my third Greene and has I think, cemented my admiration for this author forever. It is his writing that I love first. It feels as if Greene rolls every word around in his mouth before carefully placing them down on the paper before him. He writes with all the delicate craft of a sculptor, chipping and polishing away so that there are no superfluous words or phrases. Each scene is carefully layered and there are so many parts I wish now I hate noted down. This book begs to be re-read just so I can appreciate it all again.

It is narrated by Maurice Bendrix who is an author and through the book he reflects  on the process of his writing and the difficulties with it that he has especially during and after the affair. The is a strange kind of consciousness in it – as if Greene himself is discussing writing the book whilst writing it himself.

The End of the Affair is one of the novels where Catholicism plays a main part. In the two other books I have read – Brighton Rock and The Quiet American religion has played an important or elemental part in the story. Rather then portraying characters of staunch faith however, they may be atheists, almost contemptuous of God’s existence. The struggle with doubt and the temptation of sin play important roles within his novels.

Another theme that runs through these three books is obsessive, almost destructive love. In Brighton Rock Pinkie marries Rose because he thinks she has seen something that might incriminate him. Rose shows him devotional love despite how unkind he is to her. Thomas Fowler from The Quiet American is rather pathetically in love with Phuong, perhaps as a means to cling onto youth and usefulness. In The End of the Affair it is Maurice Bendrix’s jealousy that infects his love.

An interesting parallel in The End of the Affair, is that Bendrix as an author is described to be like a God in his ability to create a world and characters, pushing them around the storyboard and being able to change them at his will. Sarah also refers to Bendrix throughout their affair as ‘You’ with the capitalisation. At the heart of this book is the struggle between faith and doubt – mortal and immortal love.

I am not a religious person and you don’t have to be to enjoy this book. Greene is simply a very good writer who is not pretentious and it doesn’t feel as if he tries to be literary. He has a strong voice and an independent style of writing – a confident writer who knows his craft well. That’s what I admire about Graham Greene. Some authors just have it, some authors have to try to have it. Greene has got it.

Also, as a classic I think that it will still resonate with people today – Greene is able to tap into the human heart and in the end – society may have changed a lot but as people, we are all the same and so the range of emotions, the kinds of characters that you meet in this book will still be entirely relevant today and tomorrow and hopefully in the next hundred years.

A word of warning to those who read the Vintage edition of this book with the introduction by Monica Ali. I know you are not supposed to read Introductions first so I consciously avoided reading it but I couldn’t help but glance past the giant clanger of a spoiler that is the very first sentence. I wouldn’t say it ruined the book for me at all because it is not a book with a massive plot and so there is not much really to spoil. You read it for the writing and the deeply human characters. it however took away from me the experience of discovery, mystery and hope that I would have liked for myself. 

Thank you Monica Ali, from the bottom of my heart. Just watch me throw Brick Lane to the very bottom of my TBR pile. That is a rather lame revenge but there you go. I’m sure I’ll forgive her.

I’d like to thank a Mr Forder, who gave me Brighton Rock at my old school’s summer fair not long before I left for university. He said I should read it, that it was very good and I did'n’t do so until a good few years later. The book had a mummified fly in one of the pages but it was my first introduction to Graham Greene and I don’t think I’d have read him without the recommendation.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Andrew Taylor: Author Review (Crime/Mystery)



The Anatomy of Ghosts is Andrew Taylor’s newest book, out in the UK on the 2nd September and I won’t be getting it because of this flaming ban I’m on. I will however, I promise you, be getting it in October without fail. It is a historical mystery/ghost story, set in 1786, in Jerusalem College, Cambridge. You can read more about it at the author’s website here.

Now, I haven’t reviewed a book by him yet for this blog, but let me assure you he is one of my favourite authors on the planet. I love him. Yes, yes – I do. There are some authors who I just click with. I know that when I open one of their books, I' can pretty much be guaranteed to have a fantastic time reading it. Andrew Taylor is the author for me.

He writes mostly historical mysteries and psychological thrillers set in England. Andrew Taylor has won many awards, several of which are from the Crime Writer’s Association including the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing. Despite this, he still has yet to achieve the kind of popularity that other crime writers such as Ian Rankin or P. D James have acquired. He might be underrated, but at least he is recognised.

One of the things I love about Andrew Taylor is that he is able to meld an almost literary style of writing with a sharp, page turning mystery which in my short experience of crime fiction, doesn’t always occur together. His speciality is creating an atmosphere that just sets you on edge. Taylor is able to create a balance that looks so easy when you read it, but must be incredibly hard to maintain whilst writing it.

He is able to eek out the story at just the right pace. They are neither slow or heart-racingly fast paced. He keeps you turning the pages again and again and again, because you want to, not because you need to. His characters are always well developed and they have a real sense of Being.  He does this through small things so their development is imperceptible. He is able to get so much about a character across, in just a few words – a movement, or an expression, a way of doing something – that you feel them instantly.

Andrew Taylor has the perfect balance between good writing, good plotting and good characterisation down to an absolute tee. I feel like I can trust him completely to give me a book that I’ll love. At least, he hasn’t failed me yet and I just know he won’t ever.

Here are some of my favourite books – these aren’t just my favourite books by Andrew Taylor – but are all part of my ‘favourite books’ list. Click on the covers to be taken to the Goodreads page for a description of each of hem.

The Roth trilogy, which tells the story of a serial killer.












The Four Last Things begins in the present day when the young daughter of a vicar is kidnapped. This one feels more like your conventional police mystery however it is not. The following two books go back in time, exploring and digging through a family’s history to find the answers behind what could make such a person do what they grew up to do.

The American Boy, or The Unpardonable Crime as it is known in the US is a standalone historical mystery.


The American Boy features Edgar Allen Poe as a minor character. Nothing much is known about the famous poet’s childhood and the conditions in which he died are mysterious. All that is known is that as a boy he spent a little time in an English boarding school. Andrew Taylor imagined what happened to Poe in school and what lead to his inspirations as a famous writer later in life. It is narrated by a new master in the boarding school – Thomas Shield. He becomes teacher to the young Poe and his friend, the shy Charles Frant. Shield finds him self embroiled in the Frant family after a mysterious murder ties them all together.

The Lydmouth series is Andrew Taylor’s long running series set in a fictional town during the 1950’s.


The series title ‘Lydmouth’ is surprisingly not after the name of a character but after the town it is set in. Lydmouth is set somewhere on the border between Wales and England. In this way, it is not the conventional police crime series as it might first appear to be. I have only read the first two (of eight) and they are clearly not whodunits. The books are written from multiple perspectives in short chapters that keep the story moving very steadily. Two of the main re-occurring characters are Inspector Thornton and Jill Francis, a journalist. They are both introduced as newcomers to the town in the first book and I get the feeling that this is a series that slowly grows in strength from book to book – slowly building character relationships across the series.

These are good introductions to Andrew Taylor – they will show you what he is capable of. All three are quite different – which is another thing I really love about him is that they are all quite different from each other and he seems to be quite a strong, independent and imaginative author.

Let me know if you’ve read Andrew Taylor as I’d love to read your reviews – good or bad. I hope that I’ve been able to introduce at least one person to this fantastic author. I think if you enjoy mysteries, especially those set in a different time to ours – ones that can sometimes be a little dark – though not very violent, ones that will keep you good company that you will enjoy from beginning to end – then you’ll like Andrew Taylor.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Ban Begins

image The September book ban, hosted by Bella starts today. Right this moment. Now.

I haven’t actually bought a book in possibly over a week. Did I buy any books last week? I can’t remember, anyway the important thing is that my ban holds now and I need to keep to this ban until I have read a sizeable hole in my bookshelf. As I am a slow, slow, slow reader this might take me much more then a month, but any decrease I can only see as a good thing.

So for the short term I am banned completely for the month of September. This will not result in another splurge of 15 books (I found that for 75 years an independent bookseller is still very much alive about half an hour’s walk from me that I have never known about until a couple of months ago.) I looked pretty much like the poor fellow in the picture here, walking around with books piled up under my chin.

Anyway, my TBR is officially 435 books long now and you can see a list of them all here.

I did receive a book from Wallace for the Crazy Book Swap she is hosting on her blog, but I have not included that on my TBR because I’m going to read it next and it isn’t the average book that gets stuck in the pile waiting to be read.

Wallace sent me Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian.


Midwives, Chris Bohjalian's fifth novel, is the story of two women: Sibyl Danforth, a lay midwife in rural Vermont, and her daughter, Connie. The nexus of this cautionary tale is an emergency Caesarean section Sibyl performs during a home birth that goes disastrously wrong. Believing the mother is already dead from a stroke, Sibyl operates and later finds herself on trial for killing the woman. The compelling story of her trial and its aftermath comes to us from Connie, who believes "this is my story, too." In fact, Connie's reaction to her mother's ordeal is to go to medical school and become an obstetrician. The book raises provocative issues about medical ethics and the limits of risk. - Description from Goodreads.


Other then this, I have no real plans what books I’ll be reading in September. I do have a couple of piles sprouting up downstairs that I can’t move upstairs still. I don’t know whether I should work on the piles or the bookcase. Maybe I’ll read a Sebastian Barry – or a Yoko Ogawa. I’ve been in the mood for Japanese literature lately. Maybe I’ll read a crime, or maybe a romance by Eva Ibbotson. I’ve been feeling like a YA romance for a while now. Who knows what I’ll read. Your guess is as good as mine.


After September there are some books I do desperately want. I want to replace my Jane Austen omnibus edition with the Modern Library editions because I love the feel of those books. So they won’t really alter my TBR, although all together will be slightly bigger then my bricky omnibus edition. It will be easier to read them as separate volumes and I do want to be able to say that “I have read Jane Austen”. As it is, I have only read Pride and Prejudice, somewhat inspired by Colin Firth.



imageSecondly, I want Andrew Taylor’s (a favourite author of mine) new book The Anatomy of Ghosts which is published on the 2nd September and Carin has already hit me over the head with her truncheon for trying to pre-order it. Now I’ll be waiting very impatiently until October when I can get my greedy hands on this book. Taylor writes mysteries – most of them historical and he excels at creating a killer atmosphere that you could use to sharpen a knife. I have been looking forward to this book since last year! See what I sacrifice for this ban? To think that others will be reading this whilst I won’t be able to even crack open a page.

However after these, there will be no little, white beautiful packages gracing my doorstep. Alas, the Book Depository and I will have to part ways. It has been a long, committed relationship but it has turned slightly abusive and so we must move on.


Related Posts with Thumbnails