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 and how a series of events changes everything I know that there was a film adaptation starring Trevor Howard which I would be interested to see although fully expect that this may well be the usual sanitised Hollywood version rewrite to which we have become all too accustomed to I would recommend this book to anyone and it makes me think that I really must read Graham Greene does anyone have any recommendations The Heart of the Matter is a must read and definitely not to be missed.
551 The Heart of the Matter, Graham GreeneThe Heart of the Matter 1948 is a novel by English author Graham Greene The book details a life changing moral crisis for Henry Scobie 1987 1365 335 1383 328 Book Circle Reads 35Rating 4 of fiveThe 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 deceit and dishonor a vortex leading directly to murder As Scobie s world crumbles, his personal crisis makes for a novel that is suspenseful, fascinating, and, finally, tragic.
originally published in 1948, The Heart of the Matter is the unforgettable portrait of one man, flawed yet heroic, destroyed and redeemed by a terrible conflict of passion and faith.
My Review An excellent book Simply magnificent writing, as always, but than that the story is perfectly paced a thing Greene s stories aren t always, eg The Power and the Glory and deeply emotional another thing Greene s stories aren t always, eg Travels With My Aunt.
Greene himself didn t like the book, which was a species of roman clef I suspect, though I don t have proof, that he was simply uncomfortable at how much of his inner life he revealed in the book Scobie s infidelity and his fraught relationship with the wife he s saddled with must have been bad reading for Mrs Greene But the essential conflict of the book is man versus church, the giant looming monster of judgment and hatred that is Catholicism Greene s convert s zeal for the idiotic strictures, rules, and overarching dumb philosophy of the religion are tested here, and ultimately upheld, though the price of the struggle and the upholding aren t scanted in the text.
Stories require conflicts to make them interesting, and the essential question an author must address is what s at stake here The intense and vivid the answer to that question is, the of an impact the story is able to make Greene was fond of the story he tells here, that of an individual against his individuality He told and retold the story The state, the colonial power whose interests Scobie Greene serves, is revealed in the text to be an uncaring and ungrateful master the rules of the state are broken with remarkably few qualms when the stakes get high enough It is the monolith of the oppressive church, admonishing Scobie of his moral failings and withholding absolution of his sins , that he is in full rebellion againstand in the end it is the church that causes all parties the most trouble and pain.
Greene remained a or less believing Catholic I read this book and was stumped as to why The vileness of the hierarchy was so clear to me, I couldn t imagine why anyone would read it and not drop christianity on the spot But no matter one s stance on the religion herein portrayed, there s no denying the power of the tension between authority and self in creating an engaging and passionate story A must read.
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 around by the latter over gin , Germans, and Syrian merchants, some of whom are Muslim and some Catholic.
Our protagonist is the chief of police A man devoted to duty, he manages to create a totally loveless, duty bound relationship with both his wife and mistress He grows to dread spending time with either one We watch his gradual and painful descent from stellar civil servant into evil.
The Heart of the Matter is a very Catholic novel Unlike Brideshead Revisited, also considered a Catholic novel, the discussions of Catholicism aren t incidental to the plot and characters, but very much in the fore There are discussions of points of Catholic theology with priests, the protagonist s wife and mistress, and religious discussions at cocktail parties as well as the debates that go on in the police chief s mind But these aren t prolonged discussions the plot moves and it s quite a fascinating book, suspenseful to the bitter end.
THE FIRST FACETIOUS REVIEW BASED MAINLY ON FRANKIE VALLI AND SUPREMES SINGLES 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 any 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 clocks Louise and he s all there she was just a walkin down the African colony singin doo wah diddy diddy she looked good she looked fine and I nearly lost my mind and before you can say another pink gin dahling he s telling her Mrs Major Scobie, my world is empty without you and she s now then Wilson, you cahn t hurry lohve, no, you just got to wait Dahling.
So she decides she wants to visit South Africa, as you do in the middle of World War Two, because it s automatically sunshine there So then the Major s like what No Love is here and now you re gone what a bitch but then this shipwreck happened, not a metaphor a real one, and the young Keira Knightley I think we could get Keira couldn t we winds up widowed and prostrate in front of him and it s oh what a night late September in 42, what a laydee, what a night and he s a bit Dawn Go Away I m No Good For You but she props herself up on her one good elbow and says stayjust a little bit alongerrrr, another pink gin MajorAnd as soon as she s vertical again love is like an itching in her heart tearin it apart and she gets Major Henry to scratch it which he does with aplomb And the pink gin rains down for forty days and forty nights But even though tourism must have been discouraged during a period of total war, Louise aka Mrs Major Henry Scobie sails back from South Africa and she s all let s hang on to what we ve got and his mind gets all messed up, every day he s falling in and out of love with the one or the other, but because of the big religious thing he has going on I should have mentioned that he s living in shame He s careful but he s waiting for that moment when Mrs Major Louise will tell him as he dons his solar topee and heads off towards the nissen huts baby baby I m aware of where you go each time you leave my door I watch you walk down the African colony knowing your other love you ll meet and so forth He knows it s in the post, then there s Keira feeling like a rag doll telling him one minutego on, get outta my life you don t really love me you just keep me hanging on then the next minute ooooh dob me one Major I hear a symphony coming out of your fleshly parts you knows I do Poor guy doesn t know if he s on his elbow or his arse and the religion appears to be no help Anyway he decides to walk like a man for a change and take drastic action I shan t give the ending away but I will say this much it turns out that big girls don t cry much If at all I got to feeling a bit guilty about the above review, thinking well, maybe Graham Greene deserves to be taken just a little seriously, because, God knows, his books are serious stuff So I must say that this novel is pretty good stuff and even quite compelling, but I had a crucial problem with it The central crisis, the horrible dilemma he contrives for his man Scobie to find himself in, is religious I can t discuss it without giving the whole show away, so big fat spoiler warning in dazzly orange lights Scobie believes to the core of his very self that if he takes Communion without having confessed his sins and received absolution and crucially without a genuine desire not to commit the said sin again then he will be damned to hell for eternity Ironical twists abound, as you may well expect the woman he s committing his adulterous sins with and with whom he fully intends to continue, because he loves her, is a non believer and thinks his convictions are quaint He doesn t love her less for that in his eyes God hasn t, for inscrutable reasons, given her the grace to see the truth So, he s driven to go to Mass with his wife to avoid her being suspicious And go he does, and gets his soul damned to hell as far as he s concerned For all eternity He says What I ve done is far worse than murder that s an act, a blow, a stab, a shot it s over and it s done.
, but I m carrying my corruption around with me I mean, really Is GG seriously saying that going to Mass and taking communion if you re still intending to carry on sleeping with your mistress is far worse than murder Really That s crazy you know So if I can t take that very serious point in this serious book seriously, then maybe I the Non Believer have to turn away muttering It s Chinatown, Jack, leave it like a gumshoe too far over his head in other people s business Of course it turns out his wife pretty much knew all about the affair so this abandoned act was really not needed So there was the irony There was I say plenty of that sloshing around However, I could read it as a novel which was an intensely observed case of mental illness and gross self delusion Scobie is about as wrong as a person could be about the situation he finds himself in, so maybe GG is implying that he s wrong about God too, that the ugly version of God Scobie appears to believe in which God is half cruel puppetmaster and half lascivious voyeur of human pleasures and sins and repentances, a very repulsive version, is as wrong as his presumptions that both his wife and his mistress actually care about him The speed with which they drape replacement male companions about their persons after Scobie s demise appears to give the lie to that one This novel hangs in the air like cordite after you ve finished it with its awful pathetic denouement So, it s pretty good A GENERAL COMPLAINT ABOUT A THING NOVELISTS DO While I was reading it something bugged me which is a general point about novels Authors like to drop nuggets of wisdom into their prose and sometimes I think they should be told to stop because their nuggets aren t actually wise at all Examples from this book these are from the narrative, not from dialogue, so they re as it were spoken by GG himself Happiness is never really so welcome as changelessness p87 who says it is I don t do you He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger s life , the interest the young mistake for love p126 oh yeah, do the young mistake it like you say or would they think this intense interest in a stranger s life was merely really creepy Every monologue sooner or later becomes a discussion p242 no it doesn t We are all of us resigned to death it s life we aren t resigned to p242 two on one page and, er no, I m NOT resigned to death AT ALL, where did he get that idea from Possibly this nugget dropping is an old fashioned fashion which modern writers don t do I haven t made a scientific survey But if they haven t stopped nuggeting, they should because it s not big and it s seldom clever.
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 British colony of West Africa, where Greene himself spent some time It s set during WWII, which serves to set up the mood of distrust, fragility and vague apprehension that is to haunt the novel and our hero Major Scobie is a Catholic, and he is married to a shallow, mild horror of a woman named Louise Insert her unhappiness, his distance, another woman, another man, and you have your novel right there Those are the basics Okay, now I can move forward with this.
The book is essentially a character study of Major Scobie And in that function, it is incredibly thorough, and makes sure to search into every area of his soul, several times over We really do see the man laid naked in front of us Which is appropriate, given that he s meant to be Christ figure and casts himself in that role several times Even one of the priests says that when people have a problem they go to you, not to me, and bemoans the fact that priests are not as useful as policemen It s an interesting thought, but in any case To me, he was an embodiment of abstract Catholic virtues, set out in one man, going about life as the Catholic Church would have you do This made real sense to me for the first part of the novel, where Scobie is deconstructed very well, and Greene s conceit was quite effective, I thought He shows us the difference between living your life as a man and living your life as an abstract virtue Scobie stays untouched by the animal side of humans, the love, the anger, all vice ridden emotions found in the world that are not learned, but come from within We do not see him exhibit any of these emotions And honestly, you sort of dislike him for it He is inhuman, which drives his wife and everyone who knows him crazy, and honestly, it drove me a little crazy too But I appreciated it as a message about living in the world rather than living apart from it, untouched by it Scobie s major motivation is pity and compassion, which is exactly what Catholicism would tell you to do But it seems so distant, so resigned, that its rather awful You end in pitying Scobie as much as you do the clearly inferior characters around him Or at least, I did Graham Greene peppers this study with a great many insightful observations about death and the attachment that we really have for people, and what love really is spoiler alert Which builds into the second half of the novel, which annoyed the flying fuck out of me, confused me and I m really not sure if I agree with the premise of it at all Essentially, Greene has Scobie become involved in an affair with a shipwrecked widow named Helen, who has absolutely no one It s an incredibly sordid affair like one would expect to see in a soap opera, and Scobie is meant to seem all wrong for the role He has Scobie motivated by pity for her, has him express that it is the weak, the ugly who demand his allegiance, not the beautiful and the intelligent So this is what makes him succumb to Helen And then on top of that, he says that he stays with her out of pity That it was love in the beginning which I don t believe, as they never show it at all, but skip forward to the part where he is lamenting how love is over and then it is about duty and responsibility and keeping her happy because if he left, then she would be in pain, and he doesn t want to cause anybody pain And then his wife comes back, and everyone tells her about the affair, and then she s in pain And he can t leave either of them because they need him than God does That s a direct quote from him Which is how he squares it with his sinning conscience, carrying on with the whole thing And then he kills himself because people who love you forget you the second you die, and then nobody will be in pain any, and so he s sacrificing himself for them I just cannot agree with the whole premise and excuse that Scobie makes for his conduct there I don t believe he ever knew what love was, I don t believe in his reasoning for why he would have succumbed to Helen in all noble motivations As a Catholic and a girl who s done it before herself, I can certainly see why you would be attracted to someone out of pity Why you would feel love for people who need you Fine But there were many other ways to help Helen other than screwing her, sir I don t buy that such a distant guy would have fallen in love due to pity I buy that he stays with his wife out of pity and responsibility I don t buy the whole affair, so I can t believe in his moral dilemma Helen is painted as such an awful whore character I cannot believe why he would have been there at all We ll get to that in a second Then he goes screaming to God over and over again I get the penchant for drama I m Catholic Yes, it was interesting to try to see a man live exactly as the Church would tell him, and still to be a human being But I don t buy that it happened to Scobie I just hate the whole sordid interlude I know I m supposed to hate that its so sordid But I just think that he made Scobie a much less interesting character throughout it, and everyone else involved were mere representations of what he needed to progress along his moral dilemma, not real people.
But Given that The last few chapters where he methodically plans his suicide, tries to save everyone the pain around him, quietly goes about his business, and the meditation on what it is like to know that you are leaving the world that was good That was heartbreaking It was that effective quiet whisper of endless pain that I just thought was incredibly skillful and well done.
Okay, I really need to talk about what really offended me in this book though the terrible misogyny The characters in this book are horrific There is an extremely strong Madonna whore complex that runs throughout it, and is represented by the cardboard cutouts that are Louise and Helen These women are represented exactly as a man who knew nothing about women but what he read in books would represent them as Grasping, shallow, bitter, angry, small, but with amazing flashes of insight that awe men and yet they are so childish at the same time, so fragile and then they are so stupid the next second I hated all the women in this book, and I m pretty sure Graham Greene did, too I hated that Louise and Helen weren t women, weren t people, but were mere representations of his moral dilemmas, one dimensional harpies who enacted him scenes, had emotional fits, and generally made his life a living hell Poor baby man who only wanted peace, but no no, these screeching women just insist upon ruining his life Women are the root of all evil If it weren t for them, Scobie would be a perfect Christ angel No wonder Greene converted to Catholicism, if this was his opinion of women The Church agrees wholeheartedly Women must be madonnas who look after your home, to be worshipped, who look after your spiritual well being, and stick by their men when they are unfaithful i.
e Louise Or they are lost souls who are ready to fuck the first man who comes by when their hero does not support them like Helen They have no inner strength of their own except in those first meetings that drew our hero to them, before they became harpies, like all the rest of women are The two girls were virtually indistinguishable in their manner sometimes Maybe that s why I just couldn t get into Scobie s dilemma The women involved made me want to barf, and his bad taste in them, and his opinions of them as people just revolted me just as much End opinion Graham Greene s writing good, elegant, with quiet insight Graham Greene s misogyny godawful.
The characters that one grows to care about in a Greene novel those that are the centerpiece of his stories are always complex They have a multitude of opposite natures in their head and heart stuggling, competing, pushing to break through His heros and villians are never easy to decipher and are not reliable, and his likable characters are never perfect men and women rather, they are real and human These epic battles of the mind and heart are not only with love, but often with faith, as well This provides a deeper element to the internal musings of his characters, and as providence or lack thereof is always a factor brings weight to their actions Along with this, death is always a thought, always a possibility always somewhere in the back of the mind Life is always questioned, always taken seriously, in a Graham Greene novel.
Lastly, his novels are awesomely quotable Often with a line or two he manages to sum up life s most important issues, offering nuggets of wisdom that can make one gasp for air My favorite from The Heart of the Matter Innocence must die young if it isn t to kill the souls of men Fuckin gravy.
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 aware that the novel will hold me in its thrall until the last page, like compulsively watching the grief and destruction left behind by a trainwreck or by a suicide bombing He felt almost intolerably lonely On either side of the school the tin roofs sloped towards the sea, and the corrugated iron above his head clanged and clattered as a vulture alighted A mirror image reinforces the tonality of the novel in its final pagesThey didn t kiss it was too soon for that but they sat in the hollow room, holding hands, listening to the vultures clambering on the iron roof Between these macabre bookends, a man named Scobie will be torn apart in his love, in his integrity and in his Catholic faith, in a sweltering tropical town on the coast of Sierra Leone, during the larger world tempest that was the second world war The setting, the historical period and the damned protagonist made me toy with the idea of drawing parallels between Major Scobie and Geoffrey Firmin from Malcolm Lowry s masterpiece Under the Volcano Both writers taped their inner demons in order to create their memorable expatriates, both explore the theme of self destruction in the face of personal failure, yet Scobie and Firmin have almost nothing in common when it gets down to the root cause of their misfortuneIf one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to feel pity even for the planets if one reached what they called The Heart of the Matter My heart went out for the Consul, a victim of an excess of love and of misguided faith in his peers, a man who would rather drink himself to death than live in a world without love Scobie s tribulations rang hollow when his inner good intentions didn t translate in commendable actions There is something rotten in his rationing chain, something that will drive him deeper and deeper into a spider s web of lies, deceit and betrayals view spoiler culminating in the assassination of his trusted coloured personal servant hide spoiler Introduction, by James Wood The Heart of the Matter