The Living Room - Graham Greene

A young woman who has an affair with a married man returns to her Catholic family for her mother’s funeral. The news of the affair does not sit well with the family.

The Living Room reminded me of why I struggle with Greene’s work that centres on his religious outlook – it always seems like he is trying to reconcile different positions of thought that are mutually exclusive, unless one is prepared to find a practical compromise. But this would be an act of hypocrisy.

The thing is, Greene seemed to have managed the “compromise” in real life (it is hard to ignore the set up pf the story in this play as something Greene himself would have been familiar with) but he just doesn’t use that path for his characters, which makes for aggravating reading. Worse, if, like me, one has no interest in the repeat of Greene’s theoretical struggle with Catholicism, it becomes a chore to follow the story.

The production of the play (starring Julian Sands) was excellent, but neither the cast nor the occasional snippets of wit can take away from the completely avoidable moral dilemma, and I’m not even sure it would have been a necessary dilemma at the point of writing (in the 1950s).

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