by Graham Greene
"Scobie is a highly principled police officer in a war-torn West African state. When he is passed over for a promotion he is forced to borrow money to send his despairing wife away on holiday. In her absence he falls hopelessly in love with Helen, a young widow, and his life is transformed by the experience. With a duty to repay his debts, and an inability to distinguish between love, pity and responsibility, to others and to God, Scobie moves inexorably to his final damnation." (from the CD container)
As I was listening to this book, I had the oddest sensation of tranquilly watching a semi-turbulent stream flow by. I don't know if it was the reader, the writing or a combination of both, but there was a dream-like aspect of watching poor Major Henry Scobie desperately wrestling with his conscience.
The Heart of the Matter is a beautiful, sad book. Not in a heart-wrenching way, but you find yourself feeling sorry for the well-meaning Scobie whose only real desire is to live a quiet life. And now you've fallen into the trap, because one of the themes in the novel is how pity for others, as opposed to compassion, is a destructive form of pride. It gives one pause to consider the true, underlying motivations and possible outcomes of actions we think are benevolent.
I was also drawn into Scobie's problems with religion. He claims to not believe, but then intellectually torments himself over things such as consequences for going to mass and communion with his wife while claiming to not believe in them and the Catholic views on adultery, divorce and suicide.
This is only my second Graham Greene novel, but it has fueled my desire to read many, if not all, of his others. He has a mesmerizing way with words, making simple statements that mask the deep complexity of characters and scenes. I'm going to enjoy working my way through his bibliography.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!