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!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009


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.


Shelley said...

I love his writing and this sounds like a good story, so I added it to my growing TBR list!

Terri B. said...

Lezlie, I'm so glad you wrote this post. I've been trying to think of a way to explain something to someone and this phrase may be able to help: " pity for others, as opposed to compassion, is a destructive form of pride."

That is worded so well. I guess I'll be reading Greene someday too!

Lezlie said...

Shelly ~ It's a great story! This one almost went by too fast, and I don't say that very often.

Terri ~ Thank you! I'm happy to be of assistance. :-) Greene's writing seems to be a thing of beauty. I hope you like it when you get to it! I'm trying to figure out how to fit another book of his into my schedule sooner than later, so maybe I can come up with other good options for you, too.


Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

Graham Greene is wonderful. I thought this one was heartbreaking. The Power and the Glory is another of his that goes even deeper into the religious themes.

Lezlie said...

Rose City Reader ~ That's the other one that I read. I liked it, but it went a little over my head at the time. I plan on going back to it sometime.


Carrie K. said...

I really enjoyed The Quiet American - I need to read some more of Greene's work.

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review Lezlie! I haven't read any Graham Greene yet but have some on my TBR. I just added this one thanks to your review.

Lezlie said...

Carrie ~ I almost picked up that one on CD the other day. Maybe I need to go back and get it? :-)

Teddy Rose ~ Thank you! I'll be curious to see what yo think of his work. I'm developing an obsession with him. I still have Brighton Rock on my shelf, and I plan to read The End of the Affair for the Decades Challenge. I hope I actually get to them! :-)


Literary Feline said...

I know just what you mean by your description at the beginning of your review. I felt that way recently while reading a short story collection. I couldn't think quite how to put that in words though.

This does sound like a good book, one that I would like. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

Lezlie said...

Literary Feline ~ I'm glad you understood that. It really was a strange feeling!


Ladytink_534 said...

I'm one of the odd ones out here as I've never even heard of this author before :( Glad you enjoyed it though!

1morechapter said...

Glad you liked this! I've read one Graham and do want to read more as well.

Lezlie said...

3M ~ Which one did you read?