Over the weekend I successfully finished listening to The End of the Affair – my first ever audio book. The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene, was published in 1951. The audio book I listened to was narrated by distinguished British actor Colin Firth.
Told from the 1st person perspective of a writer, The End of the Affair is about the relationship of Maurice Bendrix with his mistress, Sarah Miles, her husband, Civil Servant Henry Miles, and with God. At the start of the novel, Bendrix unexpectedly meets Henry Miles and the two go out for a drink. Henry has never suspected anything between his wife and Bendrix, and by this time, the love affair of Bendrix and Sarah Miles had ended, with Bendrix bitter and hateful toward his mistress. Henry shares with Bendrix that he is concerned about Sarah; about something not seeming right, and mentions his intentions of seeking the services of a private detective agency to follow her around. As soon as he suggested it, Henry dismisses the idea, but Bendrix, being the jealous, suspicious, lover that he was, contacts the private detective agency and has Sarah followed, unbeknownst to Henry Miles. Suspicious that Sarah is having an affair with someone else, Bendrix hires the private detective to find out who his rival is, as well as to try to make sense of what went wrong with their affair.
Part of the story is a flashback, mostly how Bendrix met Sarah, and how their affair came to be. Bendrix portrays himself as the jealous, insecure, possessive lover, always suspecting Sarah of deceit and lies whenever they are not together, despite her passionate declarations of love for him. After Sarah ended their relationship, Bendrix had nothing but hatred for Sarah, thinking her selfish and promiscuous. Years, later, upon reading her diary, provided by the private detective, Bendrix learns Sarah’s real reason for ending their affair, as well as other confessions and misunderstandings. From her diary, Bendrix realizes that there were so many things he did not know about Sarah, despite being her lover for 2 years including Sarah’s complicated feelings for Henry, loving him while wanting to leave him at the same time, her frustrations at Bendrix’s insecurities and jealousies, her failed attempts of starting love affairs with other men after Bendrix, and her inner struggles with religion and the existence of God. Now, more than ever, Bendrix is determined to seek Sarah out and convince her to leave Henry once and for all.
The End of the Affair is a love story, but it is also about one’s faith, beliefs in religion, and the power of God. Sarah, constantly talked to God as if He were her confidante, and later, Bendrix curses Him for Sarah’s fate, as well as His involvement in their relationship. Several of the characters in the novel admired Sarah to the point of almost worshiping her, attributing strange and miraculous events to her. I guess you could say that God was the 4th character in their love affair, being very influential in Sarah’s life. The End of the Affair is also a story of an unlikely and sad friendship between Bendrix and Henry Miles, who, though married to Sarah, ultimately sought companionship and comfort from Bendrix, who strangely, was more than willing to give it.
Having listened to this novel instead of reading it, I didn’t have to think about the narrators’s emotions and feelings. From Colin Firth’s tone, it was evident right away that Bendrix was a bitter and hateful man. From his tone of voice and way of speaking, it was clear what he thought of the different characters – how he hated, yet loved and desired Sarah; how he envied, then later, sympathized with Henry; how he thought private detective Parkis, silly and useless, and Mr. Smythe vain and hypocritical. In this way, I guess the good (or bad) thing about audio books is that some of the thinking is done for the reader.
I don’t know if I would have ever read this novel if I hadn’t wanted to try listening to the audio book version of it. To be honest, the only reason I wanted to listen to it was because it was narrated by Colin Firth. I remember watching the movie a long time ago, but I admit that I don’t remember much about it. All in all, the audio book experience wasn’t so bad. A lot of times I found my thoughts wandering, but after a while I got used to paying attention. I think the biggest thing I didn’t like about it was having a particular voice speaking to me, as opposed to hearing just my own inner voice or an abstract voice when reading printed words.
The End of the Affair (1951) – Graham Greene
Audio Book – Narrated by: Colin Firth
Duration: 6 hours, 28 minutes
Personal rating: 2.5/5