Ben's Reviews > The End of the Affair

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
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's review
May 09, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, good-fiction, read-in-2009, religion-spirituality, war, to-read-again, all-time-favorites, romantic-love-and-hate, memorable-characters, important-message, transformative-experience
Recommended to Ben by: Jeremy, J, Ofmatt, Logan, and Erik
Recommended for: Anyone in love, out of love, or trying to understand emotion
Read in May, 2009

This book is extremely special to me. It amazed me. It flipped me around and turned me upside down. I was overtaken, absorbed, and transfixed in a whirlwind of emotion.

The End of the Affair was exactly what I needed to help me through some recent difficulties in my personal life. (No, I didn't have an affair with a married woman, heh. But a relationship did recently end for me, and that kind of thing is painful, and tough to deal with, as you probably know.) This novel helped me through all that: By channeling the thoughts, emotions, and lessons from the book, I was able to understand myself and my situation better. I read it at just the right time and the impact was healthy, significant, and powerful.

It seems that most good books show, in some way, how ridiculous we all are. And what is more ridiculous than love? The End of the Affair shows the nuances, complexities, depths and strengths of love; how serious, dynamic, and mighty it is, while also showing how selfish it is. And you can't really have love without hate, can you? Love and hate of another; love and hate of self; love and hate of God -- or of his nonexistence -- are the major themes. The love depicted in the novel is not a halfway love (is there such a thing as a halfway love?). It is in extremes: it either loves or hates. Love in all it's splendor and horror, Greene gets it.

The novel is also about life, and death, and fate, and God, and all the struggles associated with these things. The existential struggle of the individual; the selfish power of our personalized emotions in our ultimate search for love in its many forms.

"But if I start believing that, then I have to believe in your God. I'd have to love your God. I'd rather love the men you slept with."

The highs that are the state of being emphatically in love are conveyed beautifully in this novel.

"...the moment of absolute trust and absolute pleasure, the moment when it was impossible to quarrel because it was impossible to think."

The way your very insides change -- not just when you're with that person, but how everything in life has a more ecstatic, elated feel to it, because the person you love is always in the back of your mind. And, because of that, and because love makes you happy -- releasing all kinds of awesome chemicals -- you associate your beloved with almost everything, and almost everything seems and feels better. Life is so much better when you're in love, and as you turn the pages of this novel, you feel it.

The way you put your best self forward every time; the positive inner desire and motivating factor of trying to prove that you're completely worthy, and the very best for that person. The electricity that starts upon contact; how it never really goes away, but constantly gets reaffirmed through smiles, and small gestures, and actually grows stronger the longer you're together.

"It's a strange thing to discover and to believe that you are loved when you know that there is nothing in you for anybody but a parent or a God to love."

The fucked up selfishness of it all. The fact that while our emotions and inner selves are on high alert and more intense, so is our awareness of our shortcomings and weaknesses. We become extremely self-centered. ME. The insecurity, the jealousy; the panicky anxiety -- how all those subconscious, hidden pathologies start to surface -- you push them back, but you're made aware that they are there.

The lack of control.

"Insecurity is the worst sense that lovers feel; sometimes the most humdrum desireless marriage seems better. Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust."

Yet even with your insecurities and imperfections, because you're seen as perfect in your lovers eyes, you start to see yourself as perfect. Deep down you know it's a farce (which is probably why jealousy and pettiness often begin to play roles), but it feels great, and it makes you love your partner all the more... but still, in the back of your mind.....

"If I'm a bitch and a fake, is there nobody who will love a bitch and a fake?"

The desperate longing, the fear of finding that it isn't real; that the other doesn't feel the same way.

"I had to touch you with my hands, I had to taste you with my tongue; one can't love and do nothing."

The fear of it ending.

"Sometimes I get tired of trying to convince him that I love him and shall love him forever. He pounces on my words like a barrister and twists them. I know he is afraid of that desert which would be around him if our love were to end, but he can’t realize that I feel exactly the same. What he says aloud, I say to myself silently and write it here."

The way you love that person with your full throbbing heart; then hate that person with every angry, hateful fiber in your very being. But oh the joy. Oh, the complexity.. Oh, the might. Love and Hate.

Then it ends. Your world is shaken to the core. You see something that reminds you of the person and the times you had, and feel like someone punched you in the stomach. And you see that person in everything, so the pain is always there. The sharp, unbearable pain, like your whole life has been torn upside down; the sick feeling; the empty feeling. You used to love yourself. You now hate everything. Life was splendid, amazing, magical. Life is now dark grey. Painful. The grasping for what was, for understanding what happened. What did I do wrong? The brooding. The self obsession. Did she ever really love me in the first place? What could I have done differently? If only I hadn't said this, or given that impression. Why didn't I see it coming? Paradigm shift all you can, it doesn't go away; the love wants to exist.

But it can't.

The gloomy nothing; the hugging of air; the unfulfilled images and dreams. Just because life has become painful for you, you want it to be painful for everyone else; or you at least you want them to have sympathy for you. How dare they be so happy. Look at me. Pay attention to my pain. How dare others smile and enjoy life. Do you know my pain? ME. My heart, my pain –- nothing else matters –- listen to me, ME, ME. Love, whether in its existence or broken, is like that: it consumes and is selfish.

"I hate you, God. I hate you as though you actually exist."

All in all, broken hearts heal with time, especially if a new love is found. But I think there is a part of the heart that breaks and never comes back; that never fully heals and thus makes us at least a little transformed from who we were before our heart was broken. And slowly through time you realize that not only did you lose a part of yourself, but a part of you gets generated that wasn't there before. The whole thing doesn't make sense -- love never does. But you realize that you are a different and stronger person for having gone through it. It doesn't mean it was worth it. But having found new parts of yourself -- or having generated new parts of yourself -- you've gained something inside that can't ever be taken away; something that will be with you, and only you, for the rest of your life.

This novel amazed me. Graham Greene pulls all this off brilliantly, with emotions toyed and pulled at; with life affirming sentences and quotes on just about every page. He gave me some of the most beautiful and articulate writing I've ever witnessed. It’s hard to imagine how another book could affect my emotions, could hit me in the heart, the way this did. To feel that I'm not the only one; to have it conveyed to me so perfectly -- through me -- was amazing.

When I finished this I had a tingle running up and down my spine. Light fireworks were in my stomach. My head was a happy buzz. My shoulders were so light they had no weight. My mostly numb, yet slightly tickly legs, tripped me up as I hopped from my reading chair to get to my bed, where I just laid there, thinking for an hour, while feeling amazing and transcendent.
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Quotes Ben Liked

Graham Greene
“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Reading Progress

02/02/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 76) (76 new)

message 1: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J Read it! Read it!

Okay, no pressure.

dara I agree with the previous comment. Minus the "no pressure" part, lol.

message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Just bumped it way up on my mental list, due to the comments from these two intelligent ladies, both of whom have excellent taste in literature...

Chloe They know well of what they speak: you need to read it. Now.

message 5: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Another one! PEOPLE: I have books that I bought recently that need to be read. I just found out about this book TODAY. I'll read it, promise, but give me... 3 months? 4 months. I'll have this read within 4 months. Deal?

Seriously though, I am excited about it. It's promising as hell that all three of you are this enthusiastic about it....

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Ben, I don't think you are listening carefully enough!

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Not only this, but everything he wrote, especially "The Heart of the Matter," and "The Human Factor."

dara Who says peer pressure is a bad thing? lol.

message 9: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Amazing so far.. without bothering you with my personal life, just know that so far this has been exactly what I've needed....

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

That was a hug.

message 12: by Ben (last edited May 09, 2009 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thank you all so much. This is one of the best books I've ever read, hands down. It really spoke to me.

And to think that I wouldn't have known about it had it been for GoodReads. My love of this book is my proof of the goodness of goodreads. Goodreads is a great life enhancer because books are great life enhancers, and GR helps give us ideas on what to read. And so GR is a life enhancer.

message 13: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thank you MO!!!! That felt great. : )

message 14: by Kim (last edited May 09, 2009 10:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Oh Ben, If I could vote a zillion times for this, you bet your ass I would. Great review...

I'm moving this to the top of my list... It'll be JUST what I need after Bel Canto, I'm sure.

message 15: by Shelly (new)

Shelly Great review, Ben!

message 16: by trivialchemy (new) - added it

trivialchemy Ben, a staggering, unbelievably powerful, intimate, moving review.

I know that on GR we love to cast our votes for things that make us giggle; we vote for the satire (sometimes cheap) the poop jokes, the sexual innuendo, the puns and the irreverent. And that's fun. But when you read something like this, you realize there needs to be a whole new category of voting. Because this is beautiful, my friend. Thanks for writing it for us.

message 17: by Michelle (last edited May 09, 2009 02:56PM) (new)

Michelle Wow, Ben...amazing review! It's so personal and beautiful. I want to save it forever.

Nicole We haven't met, but I wanted to add you to my GR friend list after I read your review of Rabbit, Run. You are an excellent writer and I enjoy your writing style. I now have to read this book...Thank you.

message 19: by Ben (last edited May 09, 2009 04:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thank you very much, everyone. Both reading the book and writing the review were therapeutic, and it means all the more to me that some of you were able to gain an understanding and feel for what I wrote.

It also excites me to see that some of you added it to your "to read" list. I, of course, couldn't recommend it enough. (And if you look at the first set of comments in this thread, you'll see that I'm not the only one that's passionate about it.) I don't know if it would've hit me as hard as it did, if I hadn't read it when my emotions were so aligned with the books' characters, but I'd like to think that it would still be a favorite.

message 20: by Colin (new)

Colin McKay Miller 20 comments/'I like this review' hits so far? You're a hero, mate.

As for this: "It seems that most good books show, in some way, how ridiculous we all are." Great line.

message 21: by Ben (last edited May 11, 2009 10:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thanks, Colin! I'm lucky to have such a strong support group on here. Have you read Greene before? This is the only novel from him that I've read, but it seems you may like his stuff -- there was an intelligent struggle of faith in this (and I hear some of his other books have similiar themes) that I found very appealing, and think you may as well...

message 22: by Colin (new)

Colin McKay Miller I've read some of his shorts (got the complete collection at home). Good stuff.

Congrats on being #46 in the top reviewers.

Nicole Read Quiet American...

message 24: by Oriana (new)

Oriana My goodness, what a sensational review. Thank you, Ben!!

Kelly What an evocative review. It just sweeps you away, doesn't it? And so does this review- exactly as it should be. I had a similiar physical experience with this book- it is too visceral to exist simply in the life of the mind, isn't it?

Anyway, I love this. The best review I've read on this site in quite some time.

message 26: by Ben (last edited May 12, 2009 09:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thank you very much. As Kelly said, this book has the capability of having a profound affect on the reader. I was all the more lucky to have read it at the perfect time. I mean, how often does that happen in life? That you get to read the perfect book at the perfect time? Not very often, I assume. In fact, I'm not sure it ever happened to me before this. Sure there's been books that I've loved, but did they coincide almost perfectly with my life experience at the time? Probably not. When it happens, man: during reading your already existent emotions get enhanced, the emotions that were latent arise and become known, and through all this you become more comfortable and gain a more clear (yet heartfelt) understanding of your situation. Reading can be great, can't it?

message 27: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I told you! I'm so glad you liked it. This is one of my favorite books and you've written such a beautiful tribute to it. Thanks, Ben!

message 28: by Kelly (last edited May 13, 2009 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly And now that you've had this earthshaking, defining experience.... what will you read next??

I'm just kidding, but it does feel hard to top these Literature Nirvana moments after they're done.

message 29: by Ben (last edited May 13, 2009 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Thanks, J! You were right on the money with it; a most perfect recommendation!

And no kidding, Kelly! I don't expect to have that experience topped anytime soon, but I did choose something that I'm highly likely to enjoy. I decided to go with The Brothers Karamazov. I really liked Notes from Underground, especially Part 1, and I loved Crime and Punishment, so I'm thinking it's a good choice. And since it contains so many pages, I figure I'll have time to cool down and collect myself. ; )

message 30: by dara (new) - rated it 5 stars

dara It made me smile to see that so many of the same quotes that caught your attention enough to quote in your review were the same ones that I found compelling.

The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite novel, by the way. I read it when I was fifteen or sixteen. Ivan Karamazov is one of the first characters to whom I felt a deep connection. It actually helped that no one else in my English class liked him, because I felt like he was just mine... that no one else I knew at the time related to him just validated how alienated I felt from my peers (at the time and to a great extent still).

message 31: by Ben (last edited Jun 13, 2009 11:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Ofmatt, The Brothers Karamazov has been great. I had high expectations (heck, I wouldn't have undertaken a book that large had I not), and it's surpassed them so far. The characters make it, and the intense themes fit these passion filled, true-to-life personalities perfectly.

I love that you felt a deep connection with Ivan, and that you stuck with him even when your class didn't like him. It shows that, like Ivan, you're an independent thinker. Ivan interests me a great deal because I used to be a lot like him; I now see myself as kind of a mix between he and Alyosha... the older I get the more like Alyosha I become, but that analytical and cerebral Ivan side will also be ingrained in me.

message 32: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim grrr... Ben? What page is that conversation about the buttons and the stocking on? That scene is NOT in my book.

Go look now. Drop what you're doing and find that for me, please. :(


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Busted! Harrison didn't read the book!

message 34: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben haha! I'm definately guilty of finding that one cited on the internet as being in the book.

Hold up..

Looks like it may have been from the movie, and not the book! Was there not a conversation like that from the book? I thought there was... Think I should take it out? I guess I should...

message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 16, 2009 01:28PM) (new)


I think a Ginnie Jones style witch hunt into BH's other reviews* is in order!

* Especially for the books where there's a film adaptation.

message 36: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben And to be more specific as to how this happened, I was looking through the internet for quotes from the book that I may have missed, and that one popped out at me. Funny as shit that it wasn't actually from the book, though, 'cause like I said I thought I remembered this from the book. Anyhow, I ain't no Ginnie Jones....

message 37: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben haha, we cross posted David -- I was also thinking of Ginnie....

message 38: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben do it David!

message 39: by Michelle (last edited Jun 16, 2009 02:24PM) (new)

Michelle Too bad that quote was the only reason Kim read the book.

(Not really.)

message 40: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben She gave it 5 stars, perhaps I should be glad I found it.... : )

message 41: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben okay, the button quote has now been taken down. Some of you will run into this thread later and you may wonder what it was. Here you go:

Maurice: I'm jealous of this stocking.

Sarah: Why?

Maurice: Because it does what I can't. Kisses your whole leg. And I'm jealous of this button.

Sarah: Poor, innocent button.

Maurice: It's not innocent at all. It's with you all day. I'm not.

Sarah: I suppose you're jealous of my shoes?

Maurice: Yes.

Sarah: Why?

Maurice: Because they'll take you away from me.

message 42: by trivialchemy (new) - added it


message 43: by Kim (last edited Jun 17, 2009 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim God damn Ben, it was ONE of the reasons I picked it up. Not that a viewing of the film will hurt at all (cough, Ralph Fiennes, cough)

It's a damn good scene... (faker)

Now I've got to rethink my entire review... thanks a lot. Hmph

message 44: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Kim, you're starting to weird me out a bit, dear....

message 45: by Shelly (new)

Shelly She's weirding you out? I have a suggestion for you Ben: the next time you want to pull a quote from a book you've read for a review- check the book, not the internet. ;)

message 46: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Yes, yes, lesson learned Shelly. While I'll continue to check for quotes on the net after reading books I love, next time I'll probably verify its exact spot in the book before putting it in a review. : )

Books Ring Mah Bell

Ben, you have been very, very, bad.

message 48: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary great review, great book, great author, great review author!!!

folks read another fantastic book by greene. THE QUIET AMERICAN. it's really quite the story!! then afterwards rent the movie version with michael caine,and brendan fraser. ( in color, not the B & w version. hollywood censors watered the story down in that one!)

i highly recommend it,and i believe ben is gonna add that one to his list as well.

message 49: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary oh, and ben! i voted for you!

message 50: by trivialchemy (new) - added it

trivialchemy Yeah, you know, I can't read 10 pages of Graham Greene without falling asleep or feeling nauseous, but this review is fucking GoodReads canonical.

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