Heart of the Matter, The

by Graham Greene

6/10

This is the most Catholic of the three Greene novels I’ve read (The Quiet American and The Power and the Glory being the other two; see my reviews here and here), surprising because in one of the others a priest is the main character. Because the central conflict here is a purely Catholic problem of sinning and false absolution, a dilemma that is completely foreign to me, it’s understandable that this story interested me less than either of the others.

It’s also an earlier novel, and though it came after Power its style seems almost rudimentary — more Spartan, boring and heavy-handed when compared to the other works. The theme is hammered home relentlessly in Book Three, in a case of minor overkill. It just felt less artistic than the two other novels, both of which continue to haunt me so long after reading them.

It’s still Graham Greene, so you can still expect exceptional psychological insights and an amazing attention to the detail of a foreign locale. You feel as if you’ve been there after reading his descriptions. But in the last third it shifts into wholly religious territory, and anyone who does not have personal experience with Catholicism may feel akin to one trying to peek inside a church through a foggy stained-glass window; you’re not gonna see much if you try, and what you do see you won’t be able to really understand.

 

 

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