The extramarital love affair that inspired Graham Greene’s best fiction is unveiled and scrutinized.
In preparation for this book, Cash, a former foreign correspondent for the Times of London, undertook a kind of pilgrimage, visiting all the major and minor shrines and touching every relic of the liaison between Greene and Catherine Walston, the American wife of an extravagantly wealthy Englishman. The pilgrimage makes for entertaining reading, since many of the shrines are in such romantic places as Capri, where Greene had a villa, and the Irish village of Achill, where Walston rented a rustic cottage. Along its course we encounter bon vivants from Alexander Korda and Evelyn Waugh to T.S. Eliot. Cash also spoke with less well-known witnesses to the affair between Greene and Walston, most notably Vivien Greene, Graham’s wife, who not only provides an illuminating perspective on her husband, but is capable of discussing him without rancor—a remarkable feat, in view of his ruthless treatment of her. In addition, the author devoted many hours to examining the principal relics of the affair, letters between Greene and Walston, from which he extracts information the evasive Greene had endeavored to keep private during his lifetime. All this might seem rather obsessive were not Greene and Walston such fascinating people. Each a Catholic convert, they pursued their affair and the practice of their faith with equal vigor, refreshing themselves between lovemaking sessions by reading theology and hearing mass. The romance strongly stimulated Greene’s creative powers; its 15 years witnessed the production of not only The End of the Affair, which he dedicated to Walston, but such other masterpieces as The Heart of the Matter and The Third Man.
A vivid narrative that flags only when the author shifts the spotlight from his pilgrimage to himself as pilgrim: Cash, unfortunately, is not nearly as interesting as his subjects.