So, here’s the thing. I had never heard of this book and only roughly remembered anything about Graham Greene. I got this on Audible because Colin Firth reads it. And I love Colin Firth. But I did not love Greene or Bendrix or The End of the Affair.
Set in England during the Blitz of World War Two, this is an hours long pity party thrown by Maurice Bendrix. I mean the story of an affair. Honestly, who knows what it was even about. Religion, love, devotion, fate? It seemed to be made up entirely of asking questions that don’t have answers.
Bendrix is a writer, although apparently not a highly celebrated one, and for his next project he wanted to write about a civil servant. Lucky for him, his neighbor Henry is a civil servant. So Bendrix gets to know Henry’s wife Sarah under the guise of research and they have an affair.
It lasts quite some time when suddenly, and without explanation, Sarah calls it off. Honestly, Bendrix seemed to spoil what little time they had together so I’m not sure how Sarah kept it going so long. But Bendrix does not take the news of the split well and spends years being sad and lonely and in love with Sarah. And when Henry confides in Bendrix that he believes Sarah is having an affair with a third man, Bendrix hires a private eye to keep an eye on her. Creepy much.
Then Bendrix has the private eye steal her diary and reads it. He discovers why Sarah broke it off and comes up with a plan to win her back. They have dinner and he’s convinced he can convince her to leave Henry and marry him instead. But before he can fully woo her, she dies.
But there is SO MUCH left in the story.
Bendrix is sad about Sarah’s death (sorta?) and consoles Henry. And if that wasn’t weird enough, Bendrix says bro, Henry, I had a privet eye follow your wife and I talked to several of the people she talked to. Also we had dinner the other night. And Henry is like bro what the freak, that’s messed up. Also, Henry says, I think she would have wanted a Catholic burial. Bendrix works reallllllllly hard to make sure that doesn’t happen and instead insists on cremating Sarah. He is late to Sarah’s funeral because he almost hooks up with another chick to prove he can, and then ends up moving in with Henry.
What in the world.
And all of this combined is the mark of a story that is not, primarily, about the plot. Instead, it’s about Bendrix’s character, the purpose of marriage, testing the strength of love. It’s questioning if God is real, what’s the point of religion, asking how well we can really know a person or if miracles do happen.
However I had such a hard time slugging through the plot I didn’t have much energy left ponder such philosophical questions. At one point, I literally stopped the audio book and thought, do I like this book or do I love Colin Firth? You can probably guess the answer.
Although that is one thing I really did like about this story, the writing was often very beautiful and silky. But unless Colin is going to accompany you on your literary journey, I’d skip this one. Read something else instead.