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Publisher's Summary

Scobie, a police officer in a West African colony, is a good and honest man. But when he falls in love, he is forced into a betrayal of everything that he has ever believed in, and his struggle to maintain the happiness of two women destroys him.
©1971 Graham Greene (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Heart of the Matter

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  • Michael
  • 21-05-2017

Starts Very Slowly then Boom!

The writing at the beginning is terse, almost minimalist, and dryly British. Scenes jump from one to another with no unnecessary transitional words. Relationships are dry. Then signs begin to appear pressure, and this pressure very slowly builds. Halfway through I did not think I was going to enjoy this book, but then the sweat appears on the dry Brit. The outside temperature is logged daily while the inner stresses become unbearable.

This book is subtly illustrates pity as the most destructive form of pride, destructive to both the subject and the object.
The novel also examines choice and honor vs faith and obedience.

If you start this book, give it time, the powerful ending requires the dry beginning. This, like all my favorite books, led me to ask questions I had never thought of and left me thinking about the story long after the end.

19 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Elanjelian
  • 20-01-2010

A Novel on Sin and Damnation

I listened to 'The Heart of the Matter' because: 1) I wanted to get acquainted with Graham Greene's writing; 2) it had won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 1948; and 3) it was also included in both Modern Library and TIME lists.

It is a straightforward enough story about the unravelling of an honest and upright colonial police officer, Scobie. It revolves around events taking place in wartime Western Africa; in truth, however, it is more about Scobie's struggles with his own demons, his perceptions and fears, and his, ultimately futile, quest for happiness. Strangely, it seemed to me, Scobie the good hardly ever thinks about his work, except in relation to his own piety and damnation. It was as if the natives didn't have any agency at all, as if they existed merely to serve or to corrupt the White colonists.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed listening to the book for the most part. The narration, by Michael Kitchen, was also good. (It may not, however, be suitable for listening while driving -- Kitchen whispers too often.)

19 people found this helpful

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  • Kimberley
  • 30-07-2015

Michael Kitchen is beautiful for Greene

Graham Greene speaks to the human condition with simple sympathy.

Kitchen helps the reader/listener to feel it keenly and genuinely.

Moving.

7 people found this helpful

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  • David P. Wingert
  • 18-07-2015

Sublime!

An oft overlooked classic; please read this Graham Greene beauty. You will thank me later.

7 people found this helpful

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  • alura
  • 17-01-2012

A perfect reading

What made the experience of listening to The Heart of the Matter the most enjoyable?

Michael Kitchen's narrative style

What other book might you compare The Heart of the Matter to and why?

George Orwell's Burmese Days because the tone, cadence and style are similar

Which character – as performed by Michael Kitchen – was your favorite?

all fantastic, but the main character, Scobie, was hauntingly poignant

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

definitely

Any additional comments?

simply superb

7 people found this helpful

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  • Thoughtful Spender
  • 16-04-2015

Deeply moving!

This author is new to me, bit the depth of his insight into the morally troubled human soul was both beautiful and sad. One of the best performances by a narrator I've ever heard!

6 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 05-03-2013

my heart of the matte review

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would recommend this book because like most Graham Greene books it's all about the story. No superfluous words or dead end digressions, every word helps make an image or pushes the next word the end.The subject matter is interesting. The main characters are defined by their actions and words and not the characters internal feelings conveyed to the reader by the omnipotent narrator which is refreshing.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Heart of the Matter?

The scene where Yusef blackmails Scobie but feels genuinely bad to use this leverage against a man he respects and wishes to befriend.

What aspect of Michael Kitchen’s performance would you have changed?

I can't recall a single moment where Micheal Kitchen's performance grated on me; to me that is very high praise.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Normally Graham Greene's books have turned into some great movies. I haven't bothered to find out if this one was made into a movie. The actions of the characters are compelling in the book because they help create the atmosphere of the story, in movies atmosphere and action are two separate things. I don't think Scobie doctoring his diary would be gripping cinema unless you knew why. And if they explained why it would ruin the ending of a movie.

Any additional comments?

most if not all Graham Greene novels have a cynical conclusion, this is no exception. This is a story about a man who truly loves god and the final act his Catholic guilt is taken to an incredible extreme. There's no silver lining at the end of this one, but a great read regardless.

11 people found this helpful

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  • David C.
  • 15-02-2020

The tangled web of imperial administration

During World War II, Graham Greene served as an English colonial administrator in Sierra Leone. The lonely and isolated life of the British civil servants in service to His Majesty abroad tends to create moral pitfalls for those who represent the Crown in the far-flung corners of the realm, particularly those less likely to achieve prominence or status of note to the nation from which they long ago departed for the sake of foreign service - which creates great writing fodder.

The Heart of the Matter focuses on the travails of Major Henry Scobie, an imperial policeman serving as a mid-level administrator in an unnamed West African British Colony which Greene later confirmed was meant to be Sierra Leone. Stationed at a less important station, Scobie's fifteen years of service have netted lackluster career advancement. When he is bypassed for promotion to Commissioner, his socially detached wife Louise is mortified and seeks to while away her humiliation in South Africa where colonial life is much less harsh. As much as Scobie wants to accede to his wife's wishes, he lives on the meager wages of a civil servant. In an effort to come up with the desired funds, Scobie makes a series of uncharacteristic decisions that leads him on a destructive course.

Graham Greene has long been recognized as a Catholic novelist in that, not only are he and many of his main characters adherents to the faith, but also the tales in which they are featured as so often fraught by the traditions to which they belong. Such is the case with Scobie who, seeing himself in an irredeemable position, chooses personal and spiritual sacrifice over embarrassment or the threat to someone else's spiritual destruction.

While reading this story is as a result of the novel's placement on the list of the Modern Library Top 100 list (Greene's "The Power and the Glory" is also so enumerated), I have found myself drawn to other works by Greene who was frequently nominated for but never awarded the Nobel Laureate for Literature.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-05-2015

Graham Greene: The master of religious misery

Greene was himself a man trapped between the person he was and the one his religion taught he should be. Scobie's conversations with himself and his God, to me, are Greene wrestling with his own nature. This is a tragic story, beautifully written and narrated.

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  • Queen Kristina
  • 26-04-2015

Interesting graham green story - well done

Have enjoyed M. Kitchens in Foyle's war - one reason I chose this selection. Greene has a special insight into human motivations and relationships. This story does not disappoint, and Kitchens moves the story along very capably. Worth a listen!

2 people found this helpful

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  • DartmoorDiva
  • 24-09-2015

Just brilliant

A brilliant book brilliantly read. I read all Graham Greene's work 30 years ago and felt it was time to revisit. I wasn't sure if I would like Michael Kitchen's reading as I have got to know him so well through his TV work, but he was absolutely superb. I became completely absorbed and, through his skilful reading, I enjoyed the book even more than I did the first time around.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Anne Bingham
  • 16-04-2011

Hot and Steamy

While the story is a little on the simple side Graham Greene manages to capture the atmosphere of the west African colony during war time. The climate is hot and steamy and the social scene is claustrophobic to say the least. The narrator captures the feel of the book perfectly.

13 people found this helpful

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  • giuliana ashford
  • 18-11-2019

The Heart of the Matter is a literary masterpiece.

A gripping tale of a man’s struggle with his conscience. Set in West Africa, in the racist years of the early 1940s, the novel captures the relentless heat and the daily lives of the British living there, and the people they ruled. Its main character, Major Henry Scobie, encapsulates one of Greene’s major preoccupations, that of a Catholic trying to live up to the church’s teachings, and failing.
Greene is one of Britain’s major writers, a classic, really. If you love literature, you can’t leave out Greene.
The novel is brilliantly read by Michael Kitchener.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Yelland
  • 28-05-2018

Something wrong with these people...

I read this book 30 years ago and I didn't really understand it then. Now I do.
The narrator's voice doesn't follow the text at all, seeming to rise and fall and trail off randomly like an old librarian dictating a seed catalogue to his secretary. It does convey something like ennui, but unfortunately also distracts from the actual meaning of Greene's oh-so carefully arranged words. This tendency does mend by the last quarter or so of the book where you can at last get yourself lost in the story.
All said this book is a masterpiece so don't let me put you off....🤓

5 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. R. Jarmain
  • 14-08-2020

An outstanding book superbly read.

This is one of Graham Green's finest books and Michael Kitchen's narration is flawless.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie
  • 16-10-2020

Possibly his best.

Hard to decide between this and the equally haunting Power & the Glory. Wonderful perception and insight into even the most unexpected of his characters.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-08-2020

First Class Greene and first class performance

what a fabulous renditioning by Michael Kitchen. Wish he'd do more. A heartfelt charming story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Wehner
  • 13-09-2017

Great audiobook but not for depression sufferers!

Where does The Heart of the Matter rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As an audiobook, it's top notch. Graham Greene doesn't disappoint with his quality storytelling which is why it gets 5 stars all the way - despite my final comment.

What does Michael Kitchen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Excellent narrator who brings the whole atmosphere of the topics right before your eyes.

Any additional comments?

The story line is definitely not for anyone who suffers from depression, because this will put you close to the edge - take it as a warning. If you want a good story and are not depressed, I would imagine it would have been a different experience, but I had to stop listening as soon as I saw where the story was headed.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tomas
  • 08-07-2021

One of the best books ever

Lovely, beautiful and victorian.

Very of its time.

It’s won too many awards to mention.

Worth a go.

1 person found this helpful

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  • julie
  • 24-02-2021

Heartbreakingly poignant

Beautifully read by Michael Kitchen. A novel of its time for a particular mindset the only thing I disliked intensely was awful voice of the American at the beginning and end of the recording. Ghastly and jarring.

1 person found this helpful

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