The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene, 1948
It’s 1942 and Major Henry Scobie is the Assistant Commissioner of the Police in a British colonial West African city. Fifteen years in, Scobie has maintained his honesty, his marriage, his professional reputation, and his sanity largely due to his wife, Louise and his Catholic faith, despite the beastly weather, the heat and monsoons, the mosquitos, the natives, and the petty intrigues among the smuggling Syrian merchants and the minor British officials. But the fabric of their lives is beginning to fray and through a series of unanticipated and random events, Scobie’s life begins to circle the drain. Adultery, bribery, and lying move Scobie from being the epitome of the colonial savior to the brink of ruin. Caught between his unforgiving God and the women whom he wants to protect, Scobie seeks an elusive solution. This is often cited as Greene’s best novel and is one of the Best Forty of Susan Hill. Full of terse and brilliant insights into the human condition and an excellent plot and characters, I was reminded that Greene was among Britain’s best novelists of the 20th C.