Century of Books

My project to read the top 100 English-language books of the twentieth century.

Location: San Francisco, United States

I am an Australian writer and blogger living in San Francisco. Visit my professional site at caitlinfitzsimmons.com, or my travel and food blog at Roaming Tales or my personal blog at The Niltiac Files. I am also on Twitter as @niltiac. See the full list of books or visit me on BookCrossing.

22 April 2006

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter is set in a British colony in west Africa during one of the world wars, I think the Second World War. Scobie, a police officer, is above reproach until he is passed over for promotion and forced to borrow money from a Syrian trader to send his wife on holiday. In her absence he falls in love with a young widow and inexorably his conscience and love of God lead him to disaster.

This is an extraordinary book. I'd previously read The Quiet American, also by Greene, and that was pretty good but I think this is far superior. It's not as political as The Quiet American but the human story is far more compelling and convincing. Scobie is a middle-aged man and a Catholic living in a very different time and place and yet, despite being so utterly different to me, I really felt like I was inside his head and his heart. The novel explores the notion of what love is and where love and pity intersect and which is the stronger emotion. Scobie's downfall comes because he is not able to put his own eternal salvation above the happiness of the women he loves.

I'm quite keen to read more of Greene's books. They seem to be set in all different places from Vietnam to Cuba. The Power and the Glory is meant to be another of his best and I we have a copy of The Comedians somewhere.

30 down, 70 to go...


Anonymous Renai LeMay said...

hi Caitlin,

I don't notice Haruki Murakami on this list but he's all I'm reading at the moment :) He's kind of postmodern and hard-boiled which is mainly the style of literature I like best.

I wish I could emulate your quest but I don't have the patience to keep going through books that don't suit my personality well! My English professors always got frustrated because of this problem :)


Renai LeMay

5/11/2006 10:10:00 am  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I love Haruki Marukami! He's so observant and eclectic and his writing style is quite spare (at least the translation is). The reason he is excluded from this list is because the list is only of works written originally in English and Marukami of course writes in Japanese.

I decided not to do translations because I know so much more about English language literature that it would inevitably end up dominating the list. When I finish this project, I might like to do a world literature list of all the best non-English books. Marukami would be on there as would works from the French and Spanish literary canons, for example.

5/11/2006 10:21:00 am  

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