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Brighton Rock (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Aug 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 217 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099541572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099541578
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.8 x 17.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,454,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The most ingenious, inventive and exciting of our novelists, rich in exactly etched and moving portraits of real human beings" (The Times)

"A superb storyteller with a gift for provoking controversy" (New York Times)

"This is a spare, bleak thriller, and it boasts one of the most chilling endings of any book I've read" (Iain Rankin Mail on Sunday)

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The 8th book in our stunning 'Vintage Love Film' promotion

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 16 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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!
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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.
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