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Brighton Rock
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on 22 October 2017
Synopsis: The novel is set in 1930s Brighton, where the holiday amusements sit in stark contrast to a sinister gang underworld. Central to our view of this underworld is Pinkie, a boy of only 17 who orchestrates the killing of rival gang informer Fred. Little does he know that Fred had befriended the uncompromisingly righteous Ada, who is determined to see justice done. As he commits more and more dark acts to protect himself and his fragile status, Pinkie is left spiralling further into a state of amorality and despair.

Review: I will begin with a warning. If you are looking for a little light reading then I suggest you look away now, as Brighton Rock is nothing of the sort. It’s dark, it’s heavy, and it’s frankly pretty depressing. However, this does nothing to dull the fact it is also compelling literature that manages to unsettle, frighten and fascinate all at the same time.

I have put this book in the category of ‘thriller’ but in reality it defies categorisation. As well as a murder novel, there are also elements of a psychological thriller plus a sustained exploration of morality and human nature.

The aspect of Brighton Rock that stood out for me most was the characters. Greene’s main character Pinkie is controversial and fascinating. He may be a razor-blade-wielding psychopath, but despite this I still could not bring myself to completely hate him. I found this very unsettling, but it can probably be attributed to a sense of pity I felt for Pinkie and the utter bleakness of his existence, ‘Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust.’

It may be desperation to escape an equally miserable life as an underpaid waitress that drives Pinkie’s girlfriend, Rose, to remain obsessed with her misogynistic and abusive partner. Her naïve and needy attachment paints a saddening picture, even if such passivity is enough to make any modern woman cringe.

Ada is the only character that acts as a source of brightness in the novel. She is jolly and pleasure-seeking yet maintains a strong sense of principle. Not only is Ada there for entertainment, Greene uses her as a central point for the book’s moral exploration. However, I found that the endless contrasts drawn between her and Pinkie became a little heavy-handed at times.

Characters remain the central point of the novel, with complex relationships and an uneasy combination of friendship and mistrust. However, there is also has a strong plot with a careful balance of description, character development and action. The tension is expertly maintained; with such an amazing opening line ‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him’ it is impossible not to keep reading.

Brighton Rock is the sort of book that leaves you with more questions to wrestle with than answers. Many of these major questions are as relevant now as they were in the 1930s. Are people inherently good or bad? Are we simply the consequence of our upbringing? And what is the making of a murderer?

Favourite quote: ‘You been in love?’ the Boy asked sharply and uneasily. ‘Oh yes,’ Rose said. The Boy retorted with sudden venom, ‘You would have been. You’re green. You don’t know what people do.'
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VINE VOICEon 19 December 2012
A significant achievement of Brighton Rock is its unremitting awfulness, in terms of its bleakness and darkness. I am hard put to think of a single other book as free from humour and light. Despite its modest two hundred or so pages it seems to last for an age and I was really quite glad when I finally stumbled out of its dank and hopeless depths, blinking into the sunlight.

Not really a criticism, but worth knowing what you're in for. If you are looking for your spirits to be raised by a trip to the seaside you had better turn elsewhere.

Brighton Rock starts its murky odyssey with an almost senseless crime, which is given only the sketchiest of motives. We are introduced to Pinkie, the leader of a gang offering protection services to bookmakers. Pinkie at 17 is thrust to the head of the gang after the accidental death offstage of Kite. Pinkie is the book's dark engine, an unknowable psychopath with an intense hatred of all about him due in part to his squalid impoverished upbringing. It is he who is responsible for the first murder, and a succession of others as his crime slowly unravels due to the remorseless pursuit of the good hearted Ida. Brought up as a Catholic the book offers occasional insights into his spiritual calculations, taking a certain pride in his assured damnation .

Into his clutches falls Rose, an accidental witness. She becomes Pinkie's girlfriend though the relationship is a grotesque - Pinkie seldom disguising his loathing for her sex, her modest attractiveness and lack of position in society. Greene shows us Pinkies thoughts to us, as he nurses a vitriol bottle, with which he will scare or scar, or coldly tries to push her into taking her own life as his sins come crashing down about him.

A tawdry portrait of cheap amusements, limited ambitions and selfish, short sighted stupidity, wickedness and evil, Brighton Rock is a kind of masterpiece in its evocation of the limited thrills of the seaside and the racecourse. You will feel the need to wash your hands afterwards however.
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on 27 August 2017
I really loved this! The book is for Higher English at my school and to take some stress off I thought I'd finally get into the world of audio books and be engrossed ever so entirely into Graham Greene's beautiful Brighton Rock!

When it began I was intimidated by the low rumble of the Reader, who's name has fell out of my brain, and worried I'd fall asleep to it! His voice is incredibly soothing and calm and I fell in love with the way he read Molly, "The Boy" and "Hale"! (I'm desperately trying not to give ANYTHING away!).

As it went on and the plot thickened I became accustomed to the voice and fell deep into the world and the story I was being told, so beautifully.

After finished I rushed to buy the book, and read it as well for myself. Not because I needed to, but because I really wanted to read it with my own eyes and a different speed this time and work on analysis for my exam this year.

Overrall, and I'm an avid reader, Brighton Rock just because my favourite book.

So thank you! And yes! I highly recommend it.
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on 5 August 2017
This is the first Graham Greene I have ever read and its clear the man can really write. Having said that there is only so much self loathing I can take and this seemed to be the only emotion Pinkie had. I know that he's not supposed to be a sympathetic character but I got bored reading his inner thoughts when all he could think about was how he hated everyone including himself.
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on 23 August 2015
I saw the remake of the film a while back. As films are usually not like the books I bought this to see. A few lines of dialogue are exactly the same in the book; however, the story is quite dissimilar in places. I enjoyed the book, and will probably buy some more books by Graham Greene.
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on 23 June 2014
This book is beautifully written. As soon as I started it, I was pulled into the book's world and into the lives of Rose and Pinkie, the two main characters. The dialogue especially captures each character's specific traits, allowing them to come alive.
The story itself isn't complex; we follow the life of Pinkie, who leads a mafioso-like gang in Brighton, but finds it increasingly difficult to maintain order amongst his troops and his position with regard to other gangs. He meets Rose, with whom he starts a relationship. For me, the most fascinating aspect of the story is Rose's willingness to be deceived by Pinkie, her desire to believe his rather unconvincing show of love. By the end of the book, the tension is palpable, and I was gripped, waiting to find out how it ended. I wasn't disappointed at all. Overall, I would strongly recommend this classic.
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on 26 March 2014
Brighton Rock preserves the ethos of post-war gang violence and lost innocence. But what makes it contemporary with us is the laying bare of at least three people's psychologies . The novel is also set between heaven and hell. But the good might not choose heaven if it means abandoning those they love. The novel is an exposure of innocence abused, of pride drawing someone away from the only good decisions they might have made. I do not want to give away the plot as its is driven by its own suspense which emerges from the fateful decisions characters make. But it is worth saying that the plot has its own twist.
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on 13 February 2011
This is a very timely issue of an extremely well presented and unabridged reading of Graham Greene's classic novel. Brighton Rock is back in the news after the release of the latest remake which updates the action to the 1960s. Here isn't the place to really dwell upon the rights and wrongs of such remake, safe to say that a lot of newspaper reviewers have recommended a return to the novel, in order to reacquaint yourself with the spiritual depths of Green's vision.

This excellent audio book does the job perfectly. Sam West is a very fine actor who does justice to the whole range of the characters thoughts, feelings, dialogue, and introspections. His voice is well differentiated, and crystal clear. Brighton Rock is of course, the Genesis point of the British gangster movie, and as such really warrants your attention. It is also of course, a classic Greene meditation upon the nature of evil; among the many signals of this theme is Pinkie' phone number: "triple six". Perhaps amongst so much post-modern relativism, it's refreshing to have a character of unequivocal evil.

A great adaptation. Highly recommended.
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on 5 June 2017
An interesting snapshot of small time hoodlums from almost 80 years ago. Lessons in morality, religion and psychology with two powerful main characters. Plot kept moving along nicely. Well worth a read.
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on 4 May 2013
Graham Greene's gifts as a writer, combined with his experience of cinema as a critic, give his 1938 novel 'Brighton Rock' a relentless, rock-solid impetus in both the detail of Brighton itself and the accumulating power of the narrative. If Pinkie remains the same right the way through, just like a piece of evil sugary Brighton rock, his story, in the relationship with his gang and with Rose, eventually achieves a remarkable degree of poignant and masterly tragedy that outweighs, to my mind, all the religious concerns so beloved of Greene himself. The characterising is excellent, the dialogue, no matter how dated, has authentic appeal and the tone of the novel as a whole, despite the despair and bleakness of its seedy Brighton world, has a measured darkness about it. This is Greene's first early masterpiece and the best of his novels with a British setting.
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