on 26 November 2012
I have a lot of time for Graham Greene. I like people who are contradictions and Greene was certainly that. He converted to Roman Catholicism, was recruited into MI6 prior to World War Two, but also had affairs and spent time smoking opium in Vietnam. His books are comic and they are dramatic, his main characters hapless heroes or ruthless antiheroes. Pinkie Brown is Greene's most antisocial creation of all.
Brighton Rock is the tale of Pinkie's murder of a man called Hale and his efforts to conceal the crime. Pinkie is a young and precocious gangster. His murder of Hale triggers a ruthless grab of power and the narrative arc is like that of a seafront Richard III. Pinkie even has his Anne, a girl called Rose and the only person who could blow his alibi. Brighton Rock is a study in evil and the dark underbelly of Britain's seaside towns in the 1930s.
Graham Greene loved to travel and most of his best novels, Our Man in Havana, The Quiet American, Travels With My Aunt, are international affairs. British set novels like Brighton Rock and The End of the Affair tend to be less adventure romps and more treatises on the nature of religious morality. Pinkie and Rose are both Catholic and yet it is the irreligious Ida who pursues Hale's murderer. Like I said, I like contradictions. Greene had faith and yet he never stopped questioning religion or the people who use is as an excuse.
Brighton Rock is perhaps Greene's most famous novel, although I think he wrote better. Not many, but a few (see previous paragraph). Moreover, his novels have been generally well adapted for the cinema and Brighton Rock has had a couple of pretty good films of it made. Sam Riley is good as Pinkie in the 2010 version, but I still think Richard Attenborough nailed it in 1947. Attenborough captures Pinkie's heartlessness and ambition. Yet neither version takes massive liberties with the text and I can recommend both. Read the book first.
on 16 June 2003
A fan of Graham Greene, I consider this the best of his books I have read so far. Quite long for a Graham Greene book, I found this book literally impossible to put down and finished it in one sitting.
In Pinkie, Greene has created a character repulsive in his seeming amorality and ruthlessness, and yet one that you cannot help sympathising with. Considered one of the greatest villians in fiction, Pinkie's character slowly comes into focus as a victim too - and someone for whom redemption is visible on the horizon but always out of reach.
I have always found Greene a master at handling moral ambiguity, and Brighton Rock is an example of Greene at the height of his powers. Read this book for a well-crafted story, and one that makes serious points about the weaknesses of moral absolutism. Personally I think the ending is sheer genius.
on 25 July 2001
It begins with one of the best opening lines in fiction, and ends with one of the best closing lines. In between, Greene reveals a seamy, dark underside to 1930s Brighton, where behind the facade seen by holidaymakers and racegoers the bookmakers are in thrall to razor gangs offering protection. Hale, the seedy journalist who dominates the early pages, soon emerges as merely incidental; Pinkie, a seventeen year old gang leader, is the central character, leading those around him deeper into his own downward spiral of evil. Greene never reveals how Pinkie knows Hale; but Hale's fear of the boy is clearly drawn, and like Hale himself, you realise the inevitability of his murder, and of the consequences that unfold thereafter.
Tremendous charcterisation of most of the main players - Pinkie is frighteningly nasty, the more so for his total lack of conscience; Rose, his weak-minded girl, is also entirely convincing, as is Hale, the catalyst for the story as it unfolds. I would have wished Greene could have done more with Spicer particularly, perhaps also Dallow and Colleoni, and I'm a little less convinced by Ida Arnold and her motivation for getting involved to the point of being Pinkie's nemesis.
Pinkie himself, though, is one of fiction's great characters, and perhaps merits a better demise than Greene gives him here. But in spite of these minor reservations, this is a tremendous book, still relevant now even after the slums that gave birth to these characters have been taken off the Brighton landscape, and still able to disturb the reader by picturing what humanity is capable of becoming in the absence of conscience.
on 18 March 2012
In the 1930's Brighton, Kite is leader of the mob which dominates the gambling scene in the underbelly of the city. But when he is killed by a member of Colleoni rival mob, his young protegé Pinkie Brown takes over, only 17 years old. The revenge killing of Kite's murderer Fred Hale pulls Ida Arnold into the murky world of Pinkie and his mob. Ida decides to avenge the death of Fred, and thus sets Pinkie on a desperate path to avoid the noose. Accidental witness Rose is swept along with him.
This whole book revolves around the axis of its three principal and entirely opposite, characters. Pinkie is a product of growing up in the Brighton slum. He is a tortured Catholic believing in Hell but not Heaven. Dark, vicious and insecure, he carries his virginity like a wounded paw, revolted by his sexual instincts. His ruthlessness is such that even his mob constantly have to try to moderate his behaviour.
In a bright, sunny contrast to Pinkie, Ida is is an ageing temptress with Guinness breath and fabulous breasts who has a grounded belief in right and wrong. She is surrounded by friends, cemented in confidence and smacks her lips with satisfaction at how good life is.
In the middle we have Rose. She shares Pinkie's unfortunate background in the seedy part of Brighton set away from the beautiful seafront, but at an underdeveloped 16 she is a child still. Caught between the polar opposites of Ida and Pinkie, she could go either way, but her blind, reckless devotion to Pinkie sets Ida a near impossible task of saving her.
Right from the beginning this cinematic novel is intensely atmospheric, dark and haunting. Brighton, with its air, sea, and light is a perfect backdrop. Though this is a crime thriller above all else, it is also very much about the battle between Rose and Pinke - Her dogged love for him and his determination to keep her out of his heart. Cleverly, Greene has created an anti-hero that the reader always wishes will redeem himself and be saved. Occasionally we see glimmers of humanity as Rose's affection seeps through the cracks of his damaged soul, but we have no hint until the very end whether Ida will be able to save either of them.
In the end this book is brilliant, but unquestionably cruel.
on 19 May 2012
I've read this book about four times now (Thank you English A-Levels) at first I hated it, I hated the characters, although to be fair even on the fourth read through I still found myself hating both Ida and Rose, Ida was far too self righteous and irritating while Rose was just to pathetic. It's interesting really as I'm sure Pinkie was written to be loathed yet by the end of my last read through I found he was the character I sided with the most, he's a complete contradiction of himself, he starts off being a Satanistic Catholic quoting "Credo es un Satanum" which means I am one with Satan, or something along those lines, yet by the end of the novel it seems he has become practically Nihilistic, I won't spoil the ending but it's satisfyingly bleak.
Greene's writing is certainly cinematic and he paints a picture which will stay with you long after you've finished reading the novel, often using pathetic fallacy which gives the novel it's bleak, pessimistic voice, the novel seems to attack Catholics which is odd considering Greene was a devout Catholic.
I'm not actually sure why I like the novel so much now, it definitely gives you something to think about and the writing style is taught and gritty, even if one particular scene that involves Pinkie and a pub car park almost left mr in hysterics in class.
On a side note, if you do study this for English Lit A-Level, make sure you do it with A Clockwork Orange as your comparison novel, as Lies Of Silence, the novel we studied is utter trash, there is nothing to write about in the exam which can and does make it a struggle, and my advice to those who do have to read Lies Of Silence, read A Clockwork Orange and learn that instead.
Note: This review is specific to the audiobook version of Brighton Rock, unabridged and read by Samuel West.
Brighton Rock is an excellent tale of dark deeds and the fight to bring them to the light. A well paced read that tells the story of Pinky Brown, a gang leader who has committed murder and has silenced the only witness by marrying her. His is a hard and violent world, well realised by Greene. Laced with Greene's usual preoccupation with Catholicism and guilt the story has an edge that lifts it above the run of the ill. It has a message to send and does it effectively.
I am very much in favour of reading, but have to admit I find such audiobooks an acceptable alternative, allowing me to immerse myself in strong narrative at times when I would not be able to read, such as when walking to work in the morning, or when driving long journeys. In this audio book the complete, unabridged text is read by Samuel West, one of England's premier actors. His voice is well suited to the task, and he has put a lot of hard work into the vocal characterisations. He narrates with ease, drawing you into the story and giving each character a distinctive voice, which makes it easy to follow.
The entire book is on 8 CD's, in a case the size of a double jewel box. It is neatly and attractively packaged. It is a top quality presentation of this superb book, and one that I heartily recommend.
This is a review of the audio version of Brighton Rock over 8 cd's. Why Amazon have combined this version with the book is anyones guess but anyhow...
Samuel West does a very competent job of relaying the events, imbuing the different characters with individually different accents, vocal mannerisms etc the issue for me is that it does not fundamentally elevate a somewhat ponderous and plodding story into a particularly gripping and interesting one. I read the book many moons ago and thought I would give this adaptation a go. (haven't seen the film) As before I liked elements of Greene's descriptive writing style but didn't really find the characters that well developed with a lot of quite clunky dialogue.
If you are a fan of this book I would really recommend it as the narration by West is very immersive. Running time is given as 9hours 10 mins with a lot of nice natural breaks punctuated between and within each disc.
Anyway the story ends better than it starts so is worth sticking with to find out how it ends. Pinkie Brown, the 17 year old villain of the piece is quite an interesting character but the story itself just leaves me a little cold regardless of the format.
It's worth a mention that the cd's are presented really nicely; a really compact and sturdy plastic box with cd's stacked on a central plastic spindle.
on 6 September 2007
I love Greene generally but I have to say that this my favourite - not just my favourite Graham Greene but my favourite book. So tawdry, so sad - it is a bitter and nasty world painted delicately. I reread it once a year!
I sometimes listen to audio books when I'm doing long drives at night for my job. I've tried reading Brighton Rock a couple of times but have never really managed to get into it, so I thought this would be a good way to experience a book that I know a lot of people rate very highly.
On the positive side, this is a well read audiobook - the reader is engaging and the sound quality is crisp and clear. As far as the novel itself goes, the character of Pinkie I found fascinating. Really well rounded and brilliantly presented, perfectly encapsulating that tipping point between teenage angst and sociopathic violence. The problem I had, and I know this will be sacrilege to Greene fans, is the pace of the novel which was just so slow. In parts I found it incredibly dull. Some of the dialogue between characters, especially in the first chapter where Hale meets Ida, was really clunky and difficult to believe. There was just no authenticity to the conversations they had. Which was strange because, in contrast, the dialogue between Pinkie and his mob, Pinkie and Rose, Pinkie and the police etc. was really well done and extremely credible.
The frustrating thing, for me, was that a long dull spell would suddenly be broken by an extremely well written and interesting section, before lapsing back into mediocrity again. So I found the whole thing a bit patchy. I've given it 3 stars because the characterisation and the better sections rescue it from being a total disappointment, but it hasn't really inspired me to check out the rest of Greene's catalogue.
on 26 September 2000
This is surely one of the great classics of the 20th century, a great social study and a little disturbing, especially considering Pinkie's junkie mix of religion and murder. Comparisons with A Clockwork Orange's Alex have to be drawn... to read both is to get a great insight into two of the most intelligent and evil minds in literary fiction. A great book, and perseverance through the first chapters really pays off - a great ending too.