Book Review: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

I (Liz) recently started a book club. I have never been in a book club before, but it reminds me happily of literature classes (without the test at the end!). Luckily for you, I have decided to review the books we read on here, so you get to join the club vicariously! Hooray!

**Note: THIS REVIEW IS A SPOILER because the ending is the best part, and I can’t help but write about it. (Just skip the end of the plot summary)**

This month, we read Graham Greene’s 1951 novel, The End of the Affair.

3 out of 5 ain’t bad

The plot goes something like this: narrator Maurice Bendrix runs into his ex-lover’s husband Henry two years after his affair with Sarah, Henry’s wife, has ended. Henry tells Bendrix that he believes his wife is having an affair and that he’d considered hiring a private detective to investigate, but that he’s decided against it. Bendrix then visits the same private detective because he is jealous that Sarah has a new lover. The private detective gathers evidence that seems to convict Sarah and delivers Sarah’s diary to Bendrix. However, when Bendrix reads the diary, he discovers that Sarah still loves him. However, she feels she cannot be with him because of a vow she made. Once just before their affair had ended, they were in Bendrix’s apartment when a bomb exploded outside and killing him (this is in the middle of World War II). Sarah, in her panic, prayed that if God would save Bendrix’s life, she would never see him again. A minute later, Bendrix awakens to Sarah’s horror. Sarah is in agony over it, but it seems to have awakened in her a love for God. In any case, Bendrix, upon finishing his very interesting before-bed reading, tries to convince Sarah to run away with him. Sarah eventually concedes, and they make plans to run away together. Curiously, eight days pass without a word from Sarah. On the eighth day, Henry calls with the alarming news that Sarah has died of a severe chill. Yes, she dies of a bad cold. Henry then asks Bendrix to move in with him to help him make the funeral arrangements, and Bendrix moves in permanently. Then, all sorts of evidence comes out that Sarah is really Catholic: her mother tells Bendrix that Sarah was baptized Catholic when she was two, a priest tells him that she visited him and expressed her desire to become Catholic, and a little boy and man are healed of illness through what looks like a miracle done by the deceased Sarah. The book ends with Bendrix raging at God because God took Sarah from Bendrix and because God may exist.

Greene wrote himself in this novel. He had multiple affairs throughout his life, sometimes simultaneously, as was the case when he wrote The End of the Affair. Mysteriously, he dedicates this book to an unidentified “C.” I’ll leave you to make your own guesses about that.

And while the autobiographical notes are interesting, most fascinating is the play between love and hate of God. Throughout the novel, I felt I was watching the “Hound of Heaven” at work as He pursues Sarah, Bendrix, Henry, and really every other character in the novel.

Sarah struggles desperately with a God she did not believe existed until she witnesses a miracle: the seeming resurrection of Bendrix. Suddenly her life changes. Her prayer had been answered, and she cannot not explain it away. She begins meeting with Smythe, an anti-God anarchist street evangelist (if you know what I mean) in order to become indoctrinated into his anti-religion, but in fact, his teachings have the opposite effect. Smythe’s hatred toward God seems to prove God’s existence to Sarah, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn toward the Catholic church. She fills her diary with prayers. And at the book’s end, she confesses to Bendrix that she desires to become Catholic.

Yet near the book’s end, we learn that Sarah’s mother had her baptized in the Catholic church on a whim at the age of two. And though Sarah had disbelieved God all her conscious life, Graham Greene seems to make a case for the mystical and inescapable fact that baptism has made her God’s. She has been sealed.

I find this particularly meaningful. At a church service I once attended, a woman was called up to share her faith story. She told the congregation that she had been baptized at an early age by her mother into the Catholic Church. Yet from the moment she could rebel, she did. She lived a wild life, scorning God and her mother’s religion. Her mom prayed for her feverishly, and God continued to call her back to Him. And finally she broke. She couldn’t live the way she had been living and she stopped running and fell into the arms of love. She told us she wanted to reaffirm her faith vows and her life to Jesus through baptism, and I watched my priest sprinkle water on her head. Her mother sat in the front row snapping pictures. She and her mother and the whole congregation dabbed wet eyes, and I sat in the back just weeping along with them!

And though many things about this novel drove me crazy (Sarah’s unspecified illness, the narrator’s whiny voice, the slow first half…), this picture of a reckless God in pursuit of His sons and daughters made it a worthwhile read.

A Love Story: Part 3

Every woman has a story in her head of how she’d like to be romanced. You, reading this, may happen to be the one woman in the whole world who doesn’t have a story like this in her head, in which case, shame on me for making sweeping generalizations. Maybe it’d be better to say that, at the very least, I always had a story in my head about how a man could fall in love with me. If any of the boys and men I was interested in had asked me what I wanted them to do, I could have easily mapped out a scenario for them that would fit the picture in my mind just perfectly.

However, there was a consistent story that I came back to, year after year, crush after crush. It went something like this:  Continue reading “A Love Story: Part 3”

Jeremy and Liz in Love: Wedding Photos!

Jeremy and Liz
Jeremy and Liz
We look like we're in a movie! Nice job, guys.

Our wonderful wedding photographers now have our wedding photos featured on their blog. Matt and Chatti, of Savady Photography in Denver, are really top notch. Check out their work (and a visual of Jeremy + my LOOOOVE) on their blog.

We just loved that the photos were an artful documentation of the wedding day, and we feel that the engagement photos really captured our personality. Matt and Chatti have got a lot of class to boot.

Click to see our engagement photos!

Click to see our wedding photos!

Our Story: Part 1

Featured Artists: Richard Seldomridge (photos), Elizabeth Charlotte Grant (writing)

Genres of Art: Photography and Creative-Nonfiction

All these photos were taken by a friend of ours, Richard Seldomridge of Wapangy Imaging. Check out his stuff!

And I, Liz, mentioned in the last post that probably some of the first posts we’d put up on here would be “our story”– our story of meeting, dating, and falling in love. Well, here it is. I’m taking this from my other website, so it may be familiar to some readers. As I’ve said before, this is a barely edited version of what happened– the point in me writing this was simply to get it all down on paper (so to speak).

More parts are coming… 🙂

A Meeting: Part 1

Where do you begin to tell a love story? Does it start on the day that you meet him or the day that he tells you he loves you, or does it begin much earlier, before either of you were born, with your parents and their parents, or even earlier, at the beginning of the world, when molecules were racing around and life was first created?

Jeremiah Edward Grant and I, Elizabeth Charlotte Graves, met in January 2009. I wish I could recall the day offhand, but of course, I can’t. It seems we always forget the days that are most important, because we never knew they were so important at the time. Jeremy was born in 1985; I was born in 1987. I was born in Illinois; he was born in California. He moved to Colorado when he was six, only thirty minutes away from where my aunt and uncle lived—they got married four blocks away from where his parents bought a house, and for years, my uncle worked at the MCI building near Garden of the Gods, only two blocks away from the house where Jeremy grew up.

Jeremy loved to draw, and his mother, noticing it, encouraged him. She homeschooled him, but had artists friends from church tutor Jeremy in art. By high school he was taking advanced classes and winning awards. He illustrated an entire series of Sunday school curriculum for Summit Ministries. He won a local art show.

My parents noticed that I loved stories and read to me when I was young. In elementary school, I wrote stories (which I also illustrated, of course). In my second grade report card, my teacher told my parents that I was an excellent story-teller and that I had a wild imagination. By high school, my father, who was educated in journalism himself, was teaching me that editing was a part of writing. I still remember the day when he read one of my papers during my sophomore year and told me he wouldn’t change a thing.

Jeremy went to a college in Arkansas; I went to a college in Illinois. My grandmother started pestering me to do a program called “The Institute” at Focus on the Family. The pressure increased around the end of my freshman year. She wanted me to apply for the fall of my sophomore year (2007). I refused. That fall of 2007, Jeremy attended the Institute after he’d graduated from college.

During the summer in between my junior and senior years in college, I went on a school trip to England. We studied literature at Oxford, hiked in the Lake District, and visited art museums in London. That summer (or was it the summer before?), Jeremy also went on a school trip. He visited London and France, studying art and culture and eating lots of European cuisine.

We never met. In spite of all these funny coincides, we never met– not until the January after I finished college. My last semester had been hard, the hardest one yet, and instead of following through on my original plans to stay around the Chicago area, I felt that God was opening a door to come to Colorado Springs. My aunt emailed me and said, “Liz, I know you already have a Plan A, but in case you need a plan B, you can come live with me and your Uncle Ron for free out here. We’ll feed you and you can work with me at Goodwill.” I told her that no, thanks, I already had my life figured out. And then two weeks later, I emailed her back to see if the offer still stood—it did.

Three weeks after I’d taken my last exam, I drove halfway across the country to go live in their basement. I knew only three people in Colorado Springs: my aunt (my mother’s twin), my uncle, and my grandmother. I cried on the way to Colorado, because I knew that my life would change forever. And it did.

Meanwhile, Jeremy had graduated from college, had finished his time at the Focus on the Family Institute, and was looking for graphic design jobs. He started pursuing a job working as a graphic designer for a ministry in England. But as the process stretched out for months, he started to realize that he really wanted to stay in Colorado Springs to connect to his church. “Sorry,” he told them. “I’m not interested anymore.” And he planted his feet in Colorado Springs.

However, I came to Colorado Springs ready to move away. I didn’t want to make new friends or live in a new place. I wanted what was familiar. But before I’d come, I’d made a commitment that I’d try anything out here, that I would say yes to everything (within reason) in this new place. So when my aunt started dropping hints about a guy named Chad—“Liz, he’s really cute and smart and not dating anybody…”—I sighed and said that yes, I’d go to the Mill with him. I wanted to see what it was like anyway.

(What’s the Mill, you ask? It’s a young adult church service put on by New Life Church. Yes, that New Life Church. Basically it’s a gathering of 1,000+ young people in Colorado Springs, and at the time, I thought it would be a great way to make new friends.)

My aunt and uncle arranged for Chad to take me to the Mill on the second Friday after I’d arrived in Colorado Springs. I met him there. He brought a friend, thank goodness. We sat through the singing and listened to a man talk about one of the ten deadly sins, and then, another man came up to say hi to Chad. “Liz, this is Jeremy.” I was distracted. We shook hands and smiled, and excused myself to go ask one of the New Life people to pray for me.

Just that morning, I’d been struggling with God about staying. I’d just arrived, but already I wanted to leave. He kept impressing on me the story of Abraham and Isaac, how Abraham was called to give up Isaac to death, without knowing the reasons of God. I did not know God’s mind. But I went up for prayer and the prayer minister said, “I think you need to give something up to God. I’m reminded of Abraham giving up Isaac…” I knew that I needed to be open to staying in Colorado Springs and not leaving at the first chance I got.

I walked back up the aisle toward Chad and the other guys and passed that guy Jeremy on my left. We saw each other and smiled, and I congratulated myself on not being attracted to him, even though I knew he was an artist.

Chad and his friends decided to take me to dinner. We went to a restaurant and talked for two hours. Chad kept mentioning that Jeremy guy—“Man, I wish Jeremy were here. Do you know what he’s doing, Evan? We should call him.” And he told me stories about Jeremy—about his art, about his spiritual life. It seemed odd to me, but from Chad’s stories and high opinion of Jeremy, this man I hardly knew intrigued me. I tried not to think about it.