Once again I’ve spent time trying to think up something to say about a book. This time The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I’ve read several Greene books this year and this one felt very autobiographical — about a writer who has an affair, only it’s not the writer whose Catholic. In fact, at first no one seems to be Catholic. And then Sarah becomes Catholic seemingly against her will and one wonders if that’s how it was with Greene.
Different from other Greene I’ve read. The Third Man and The Ministry of Fear both more interesting, enjoyable reads, but with almost nothing in the way of characters. The first I read, Stamboul Train, I hadn’t thought so much of when I first read it, but having read 3 more, the characters in that are his strongest and most diverse. Also, the most sympathetic overall. Maurice is so full of hate, acting more often from jealousy than any other motivation, it’s difficult to understand what she saw in him. And she aside from this weird religious pull has little in the way of a character. They none of them have any friends or interests. The men work. She just hangs around attracting people and calling herself a bitch and a fake for no discernible reason.
Most of Greene’s characters seem like half characters at best. Why did that seem to happen after Stamboul Train which had a fair number of well-differentiated characters whose motivations you could generally understand even if they weren’t ones you’d share. And also I thought it pretty early to be writing about a lesbian woman who boards the train in order to try to hold onto her kept girlfriend who’s tired of playing lesbian and wants to be kept by a man now.
I’m glad I read all these close enough together to compare and contrast them. Funny how my opinion of Stamboul Train has undergone a huge change after reading the later works. So often a writer’s later works are better, but while I think Third Man and Ministry of Fear are much stronger plot-wise, nothing beats Stamboul for characters. And End of the Affair — well, I’m still not sure what to say about that, except Graham Greene was a strange dude.