Last Saturday was the Flips Flipping Pages November book discussion featuring Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.
Earlier in the day, a bunch of us met up at the University of Santo Tomas to view the Lumina Pandit exhibit (more about that in a separate post!), which took us through the history of books in the Philippines. We then proceeded to the Gayuma restaurant in UP Village for the discussion to be moderated by Fredda.
I must confess that I wasn’t able to finish the book before the day of the discussion (gasp!). I’d borrowed my boss’ copy of the book (it was hard to find in the local bookstores) but I thought it would be an easy read so I kept putting it off until it was too late. That morning I tried my best to finish the novel, but I didn’t want to be late for the exhibit tour so I read in the cab, but by the time we had lunch after the tour, I still had one third of the novel to go. And then for some strange reason, on our way to the discussion, Gege’s car overheated and we had to take it to a roadside garage, and so I ended up finishing the novel right there!
Fredda had a full afternoon planned. We (Gege, Mike, Lia, and I) arrived a bit late due to our pitstop and having to find parking, but we arrived in time for plenty of food for thought. I liked the insightful points for discussion that Fredda brought up — the semiautobiographical aspect of the novel (Oh, Graham, you devil you!); God as the fourth character in the novel; Sarah’s quest for faith and identity; war as an accomplice in the affair; the concept of a vengeful God; the Catholic underpinnings of the novel; and other interesting ideas about the novel.
I must say I didn’t like the book as much as I expected to, even though some of the Flippers had been raving about it long before we had the discussion. I mean, I did appreciate the quality of Greene’s writing, from his very first sentence, “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead” to quotables such as “To me comfort is like the wrong memory at the wrong place or time: if one is lonely one prefers discomfort,” and “The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belong to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”
As a whole I found it just… okay. I wasn’t compelled enough to read page after page of it, even though it was a relatively short book. It’s not because the book isn’t plot-driven; I had no problem with the structure of the book or any of its themes. I just wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters and what they were experiencing. I think the high point of the novel for me was the whole episode with Parkis! I also thought the falling action was excruciatingly drawn out… After you-know-what (whoever’s read the book will know what I’m referring to), I think a few more pages would have done it, but it goes on quite extensively and I’m not convinced all that happens afterwards is all that necessary.
Mainly, I think I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read the book, as I pretty much read it in a few hours, but I think this is the kind of novel to be read at a languid pace, when you can let the words stew and simmer so you can savor them more. I think I’ll give this book another try in the future to see what they’re all raving about.
Oh, and people have been telling me they liked the movie, so maybe I should go see that too!
Check out what other Flippers thought of the book:
The End of the Affair by Grahame Greene, copy on loan from my boss, 3/5 stars
Book #167 for 2010