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The Heart of the Matter

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  23,727 ratings  ·  1,195 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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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
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
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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.
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
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Introduction, by James Wood

--The Heart of the Matter
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.
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, 1990s, 2016, fiction, war
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
Dec 23, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
David 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 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lapsed (or practicing) Catholics; anyone with a slightly masochistic streak
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
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
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the Pope
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Greene fans; 20th-century literature students
One of my Goodreads groups is about to do a common read of another novel by Greene. That prompted me to finally write a review of this one, the only example of his long fiction that I've read, after a lapse of 18 years. (As a high school student, I also read one of his short stories, but it proved to be largely forgettable.) There are inevitably details about the book that I've forgotten, but I actually remember the bulk of it, and my reactions to it as I read, pretty well (and checked it out fr ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
A. Dawes
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of Greene's serious novels. I won't lie, like Monsignor Quixote it has dated more than some of his other works - possibly due to their exploration of internal religious conflict with faith playing a heavy role, rather than just an ethical or spiritual debate without the exploration of Christianity. Nevertheless, The Heart of the Matter a powerful novel. It possesses the love elements along with the spiritual conflict of The End of the Affair, yet it also has the deeper historical lay ...more
Smiley (aka. umberto)
Sep 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

This is my 4th novel by Graham Greene I've recently decided to resume reading his works as many as I can. I first knew him from reading an excerpt from his The Power and the Glory (traditionally typed and roneoed sheets) in one of our English literature courses 40+ years ago. I found reading him simply perplexing to me then, I couldn't help wondering how he wrote superbly and why, his narratives were so powerful that I had to go out at Asia Bookstore in Bangkok on Sukhumvit Road in se
Krok Zero
Aug 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fall-2010
Policeman stationed in colonial Africa cheats on his wife, gets involved with shady diamond smugglers, struggles with his Catholic faith, and endures no end of anguished self-analytical rumination. Funsy!

Three stars means "liked it." I liked it. But the thing is, I recently read Greene's The Quiet American, and looooved it, and hoped this would be in the same vein and that I would loooove it, but it wasn't and I didn't.

The Quiet American is tightly plotted, full of witty irony, sharply drawn cha
Feb 06, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This hardcover edition is volume 6 in the Heinemann & Bodley Head edition of which there are 19 volumes. The book contains an extensive new introduction by the author.
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
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"The truth, he thought, has never been of any real value to any human being--it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths. He involved himself in what he always knew was a vain struggle to retain the lies."

There are a lot of quotable lines in Greene.
He's very good at mapping the territory of despair. His characters are very real, as is the setting. The novel is both cinematic and introspective. I've read only one o
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: want-to-buy
A nice man who is a people pleaser marries a manipulative, cunning woman. He thinks of others before himself and God AND we ask why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Our conscience sometimes is the biggest con.
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Scobie has an extreme case of Messiah Complex, doesn't he? He not only thinks he has to protect his wife and mistress from pain, he also has to protect God. Although I do not agree at all with Scobie's thinking, I do think the author did a great job in portraying him.
Dec 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
What a lot of angst! I don't think I really enjoyed this book until the last quarter. It seems to be split into arbitrary parts so that the storyline loses momentum at times. The anguish Scobie suffers over his Catholicism is lost on a non Catholic but it seems to me an irony that having a strong faith can cause so much pain. Some phrases left me bewildered: 'He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger's life, the interest the young mistake for love.' Really? 'In our hearts the ...more
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Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Ca
“Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil -- or else an absolute ignorance.” 151 likes
“Of two hearts one is always warm and one is always cold: the cold heart is more precious than diamonds: the warm heart has no value and is thrown away.” 121 likes
More quotes…