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The Heart of the Matter

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  27,723 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews
In a British colony in West Africa, Henry Scobie is a pious and righteous man of modest means enlisted with securing borders. But when he’s passed over for a promotion as commissioner of police, the humiliation hits hardest for his wife, Louise. Already oppressed by the appalling climate, frustrated in a loveless marriage, and belittled by the wives of more privileged offi ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 7th 2004 by Vintage Classics (first published 1948)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  27,723 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews

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Ahmad Sharabiani
(Book 551 from 1001 books) - The Heart of The Matter, Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter (1948) is a novel by English author Graham Greene. The book details a life-changing moral crisis for Henry Scobie.

Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork...

Graham Greene's masterpiece, The Heart of the Matter, tells the story of a good man enmeshed in love, intrigue, and evil in a West African coastal town.

Scobie is bound by strict integrity to
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beware the pity-party

This is a terribly British, terribly colonial novel, set in West Africa during WWII. You know what I mean by colonial, you can see it, right? Men with manly jobs, say, like a potential police commissioner, are called "Tickie" by their wives and have a "boy" who has worked for them for thirteen years.

You'll have to look past all that, in all likelihood. (I had to. Dear god, why "Tickie"??)

Once you get past the things that might annoy, or that may not have aged particularl
Henry Avila
Mar 23, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read a book from a distinguished writer or otherwise for the first time I notice things particular to the author's style or mood. Has he an agenda, does he want to preach or just entertain. How well can he or she communicate with the reading audience, does the author care that much. Will people come back for a second helping maybe not, however a book that is boring to some will excite others. This is a way of stating people are different nobody pleases all, which makes for variety in the ...more
Adam Dalva
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very strong, Very Greene. The comic touch always lurks on the edge of his major works - even here, a West African coastal colony town during World War 2, where British officers have regressed into a sort of juvenile madness. The novel is stifling, claustrophobic, and yet lightly rendered, as a police officer named Scobie moves along the fixed track of plot toward inevitable disaster.

Though (as the James Wood introduction, which is a horror of spoilers, discusses) Scobie is in some ways a confou
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

I remember a striking image from a previous novel of Graham Greene, of vultures settling to roost on the iron rooftops of a nowhere town in a third world country (it's the introduction to "The Power and the Glory"). When I came across an identical image in the first pages of the present novel, I knew I was letting myself in for another traumatic ride through the maze of a fallible human mind, I knew I would struggle with depression and moral ambivalence and with a loss of faith, yet I was also a
Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a classic "colonial novel." We are immediately immersed in the British colonial tropics - an unnamed British colony in West Africa during World War II. Cockroaches, rats and diseases abound. The British colony shares a border with a Vichy French (German-allied) colonial country so there is much intrigue about industrial diamond smuggling and the sinking of ships off the coast. This capital city is a melting pot with Africans and British of course (and the n-word is frequently tossed ...more
Richard Derus
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Circle Reads 35

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Graham Greene's masterpiece The Heart of the Matter tells the story of a good man enmeshed in love, intrigue, and evil in a West African coastal town. Scobie is bound by strict integrity to his role as assistant police commissioner and by severe responsibility to his wife, Louise, for whom he cares with a fatal pity.

When Scobie falls in love with the young widow Helen, he finds vital passion again yielding to pity, integrity giving way to
Paul Bryant
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels

*** Spoilers ahoy but we're all friends aren't we?****

As our tale opens, Major Henry Scobie is stuck in a you never close your eyes anymore when you kiss my lips type situation with Mrs Major Henry Scobie aka Louise and there’s a big thought bubble coming out of both their heads which says Where did our love go? Well, after 15 years, what do you expect darlin? Then this new character strolls in called Wilson and he cl
Four stars, because of the quality of the writing. But I am going to disagree with the label that goes with it, that of "really liked it." Because I did not. I feel no affection for this book, and I doubt that I will ever re-read it for many reasons that I will state below. But for those just reading this to get a quick glance about whether they should read it or not: you should, in short. It is worth it. I just would not expect to fall in love.

The book focuses on Major Scobie, a policeman in a
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Graham Greene’s powerful story of morality, integrity, love, betrayal, intrigue, corruption, life changing events and Catholic guilt set in war time Sierra Leone.

This is a great book and only the second Graham Greene that I have read (Brighton Rock being the other). The Heart of the Matter is a powerful, thought provoking and deeply profound novel that works on many different levels. It has at its centre the story of a Scobie – a man of integrity and honesty, a deeply principled police officer a
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you get right down to the heart of the matter, the heart is difficult to know and even more difficult to control. A good man can do bad things, and a bad man can get away with murder. Henry Scobie is a good man, in fact a rarer thing, a good policeman, who finds himself trapped in a situation in which there is no way out that won’t damage someone. Henry Scobie is not a man who is comfortable with damaging someone else to save himself. In fact, Greene seems to think it is ironically his very ...more
At one time in my life I read a lot of Grahame Greene, I don't know precisely when but it must have been in late autumn or winter because my memory of so many is dreary, rain on the window panes, dark, action played out in black and white. An alien mind with a curious if twisted consistency. A feeling of inevitable betrayal and fear of failure in The Confidential Agent. Relationships here or in The Quiet American as promising a particularly dreary doom. A decaying post war feeling that suggests ...more
I know exactly why I love Graham Greene novels; and this, The Heart of the Matter, is a shining example of Greene at his best. It is vintage Greene, containing all his themes and strengths. No, it's not my favorite from him; but from I've read thus far, it is the best example of all he's capable of -- it is the novel I recommend you try if you want to find out if he's for you.

For one, this has the classic Greene love struggles: men and women caught up in that irresistible, uncontrollable force.
Graham Greene's 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter is nominally set in West Africa, perhaps because the author served Britain in Sierra Leone for several years during WWII. However, the heart of this novel is quite definitely situated in a far more authorial landscape known as "Greeneland".

Oddly enough, while Graham Greene seemed to savor his time on the African continent, there is little of Africa or Africans held within the novel, offerings a scant hint of life beyond the British administrati
E. G.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Introduction, by James Wood

--The Heart of the Matter
Michael Finocchiaro
I had heard of this book, but it was the consistent references to it in Americanah, the protagonists mother loved it, that pushed me to read it. And, wow, was I impressed. It is the story of a police chief in an English colony in Africa and his failing marriage and the struggle with his conscious. A very, very Catholic story, it is moving and thought-provoking. There are few writers such as Greene that can turn a spy/police story into such a fantastic interior dialog about the sense of morality ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago, and now upon re-reading I'm struck by how Greene pierces all that insufferable British colonial wartime mumbo-jumbo and shows the ineffable sadness behind the fake chumminess and the cold loneliness at the heart of the overseas bureaucracy.

The main character, Scobie, is tormented by his own betrayals: of his wife, his mistress, his job, and his God. Like so many of Greene's characters, he is at once the strongest and weakest of men--the one possessed of the most "goodness"
While Graham Greene tends to be a little wordy for me, I did enjoy this book much more than The Quiet American. I was slightly disappointed though that when the story began speaking of suicide, I knew immediately how the book would end. Four stars. ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“If one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to pity even the planets? If one reached what they called the heart of the matter?” –Graham Greene

I was raised, as they say “in the church,” and even taught English in parochial (religious) schools for several years, as faith drained from me, inch by inch, year by year. I think of myself as an agnostic now, though I sometimes do pray, just in case, I say jokingly. Though I am not and never have been a Roman Catholic, I am quite familiar with t
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
[3.5] Greene is always a pleasure to read and I enjoyed his sharp portrayal of a claustrophobic West African colony and its burdened citizens. But the heart of the matter here eludes me. Long-suffering Scobie's love affair with Helen felt implausible and childish. He relates to her as if she is a punishment. His Catholicism causes more pain. There must be an allegory happening here that is over my head. But Greene writes so well! ...more
I hate my job. I hate my life. I hate my wife. I hate my mistress. I love God but hate him for making me Catholic. I hate my servant. I hate the guy blackmailing me. I hate the guy who's spying on me and is in love with my wife. I hate everyone around me. I hate that I might be going to Hell.

Well, I hate this book. I hate the story. I hate the characters. I hate the main characters name. I hate the setting. I hate the Catholic guilt that rears its useless head every third page. I hate the whiny
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, 1990s, war, fiction, 2016
The Heart of the Matter, although considered by many one of the best novels ever written, is thought by others a depressing, unhappy story. Certainly, the characters in Greene’s book bump and bang into each other, literally ‘bumping off’ themselves and those in their way, for what they believe is love.

Of course, it is about love. Real love. Not Romance, nor what most people think is love. Love isn’t sex, nor is it a feeling, nor is it ‘liking someone’. Reviewers and readers over the years have b
F.E. Beyer
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
“The Heart of the Matter” drew me in with the mean gossip at the club and the loneliness of the British inhabitants in a West African colony based on Sierra Leone. The protagonist Scobie is a policeman and the one white character who gets on with the locals. The Africans aren't developed beyond a shadowy presence of saying “yes sah” or, in the case of women, stirring forbidden lust as they walk by. Africa is but a backdrop that allows the British to be alienated and inward-looking. Their small, ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is not a review. I finished this book a week ago and have been trying to write a review for it several times but words just fail to describe the detachment I was left with on finishing.
So, instead of a review, here is a rant spurned by having wasted time on this book.

Yes, Greene's writing is wonderful - the wordsmithing, that is: the descriptions of the West African mid-war setting, the descriptions of pink gins, the descriptions of Scobie's thoughts.

However, none of this helped to warm t

A sad sad novel. I liked it even though I'm not a catholic. A lot of the catholic guilt stuff went straight over my head. I am a philistine guy who has not read the bible and knows next to nothing about Christianity. But even then, there was a lot to appreciate in the novel.

It is set in a multicultural African colony, controlled and policed by the British. Scobie is an extremely moral but broke policeman with a demanding wife Louise. He is getting old and it looks like he will n
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read Graham Greene, I vow to read more Graham Greene. He digs so utterly, completely into the souls of his characters--really, you know them better than most of the real people in your life. Major Scobie is no exception. In fact, everything about this man is laid bare.

Scobie is a good man. He is upstanding and moral in a place (British colonial West Africa), time (WWII), and profession (the police) that values deception, injustice, and corruption. The petty colonial British society
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, africa
This poor asshole, stuck in Africa with a wife who doesn't love him, a job going nowhere and this pathological religion. He says he wants to be alone but the minute his wife leaves him he starts an affair, and promptly turns it into the same muck his marriage was, and then he throws a total shit fit over going to confession because he has no intention of quitting his affair, and that's definitely not cool with God as he knows Him, and you can see the pickle he's in.

The thing with Graham Greene i
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is what happens when you live your life trying to get a piece of Sky Cake* in the great hereafter. Not only will you probably make yourself miserable while you’re here on earth and waste time that could be spent eating delicious actual cake, but you’ll most likely fuck up the life of everyone else involved with you.

*(For the detailed explanation of the concept of Sky Cake, check out comedian Patton Oswalt’s routine of the same name.)

Henry Scobie is a police officer in an unnamed British col
WOW! I am sold on Greene!

If you are looking for a book that will push you to think, this is for you. If you are looking for a novel of psychological, philosophical or religious import, this is the novel for you too. It has also extremely strong character portrayal. I am not religious, and it opened up for me how those who do have faith reason. It showed me how a person of the Roman Catholic faith might think and might struggle with their beliefs. Pay attention to the word struggle. How one worsh
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork …
'He certainly loved no one else," she said.
'And you may be in the right of it there too,' Father Rank replied.

In between these bookend sentences lies the rest of The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene's 1948 novel, set in not-quite-darkest Africa during World War II. The novel became a best seller when it came out, and is high enough on the pantheon of notable fiction that it has its own 8-scree
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Particularly known novels, such as The Power and the Glory (1940), of British writer Henry Graham Greene reflect his ardent Catholic beliefs.

The Order of Merit and the Companions of Honour inducted this English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer, and critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined

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