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Brighton Rock (1938)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,433951,781 (3.73)355
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold, who is determined to avenge a death.
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» See also 355 mentions

English (90)  Swedish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
OK, I admit defeat. If I had not chosen to read this whilst ill I imagine I would have got through it, since it is short by modern standards. As it is I just can't stand to spend more time around these characters that I uniformly can't empathise with and mostly find irritating or down-right unpleasant. There is a character one is supposed (I assume) to like and root for but I find her as annoying as the other two major protagonists. Ultimately I just find these people boring. So, I give up having made it approximately half-way. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Psychopath Pinky meets nice Catholic girl, Rose. Lucky for her, Rose is saved from his clutches by Ida Arnold, a lovable heathen who knows right from wrong and has the courage to follow her moral compass. At times disturbing, it's a wild romp through Brighton's underworld in the 1930s -- and it's a story about the depths of mercy and love. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
Probably because I read this at school, I found this book really dragging on. A lot of it seemed pointless and unnecessary to the plot and the plot itself wasn't very profound or meaningful. Righteous and Evil against Good and Bad, it was a very hollow portrayal of it all. I might read this when I'm a lot older and think it's a masterpiece but in sixth form it just annoyed me. ( )
  Neal_Anderson | Jun 11, 2020 |
This is a dark story set in 1930's Brighton. Greene's main character is a small time gang member who seeks to revenge the death of his previous boss by the main gang in Brighton. He kills Hale, an informer for the other gang, and the rest of the story he sets about trying to give himself a watertight alibi by eliminating people who know and by forcing Rose, another girl who is aware of what he did, to marry him. At that point a wife could not give evidence against a husband.

Ida, a lady whommeets Hale on the last dya is alive is suspicions of what he did and seeks to find the evidence.

Greene manages to convey the despair and the squalor that existed in Brighton in this time. It is not a nice story at all, but Green makes it compelling. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
"A brain was only capable of what it could conceive, and it couldn't conceive what it had never experienced."

Brighton Rock was written in 1938 and is one of Graham Greene’s most famous works. It opens with a newspaper man who has fallen in with the wrong crowd visiting Brighton for work and where he is pursued by a local gang, "Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.", turning a day at the seaside into a race to survive. In an attempt to escape his pursuers he latches on to a buxom, good-time girl down from London for the day. But to no avail, Hale is grabbed when his companion,Ida Arnold, goes to the toilets to wash up.

Ida initially believes that she has simply been stood up but learns about Hale's death a few days later from a local news report, supposedly from a heart condition. Knowing in her gut that something is not right she sets out to uncover the truth. This spells trouble for the gang led by seventeen-year-old socio-path Pinkie. To cover his tracks Pinkie, is forced into marrying a timid, trusting, sixteen-year-old waitress Rose to stop her testifying against him and to spill yet more blood."He was a child with haemophilia: every contact drew blood." When the police refuse to look into the case Ida continues to hound the pair as she struggles to make Rose see sense and ‘save’ her becoming an unlikely detective in the process.

The 1930's were a time of depression and austerity in Britain. Both Pinkie and Rose have had difficult childhoods, having been raised in slums, both had also come late arrivals at the initiation into love and affection, so it is hardly surprising that Pinkie turned to violence and crime. However, religion is the biggest mover here. Both Pinkie and Rose are Catholics who believe in mortal sin but whereas Pinkie believes in Hell but not Heaven Rose puts her faith in Pinkie with an almost religious fervour. Pinkie is sexually frustrated, riddled with guilt and disgust with the act. He is a cold and calculating socio-path, but Rose believes that he is not beyond redemption. Her blind love for him creates a struggle within Pinkie, he is unfamiliar with such unswerving affection. In contrast Rose's problem is that she does value herself. She is drawn to Pinkie's nihilism simply because she doesn't believe that she deserves anything better, that cruelty and disappointment is her allotted dues. In contrast Ida is superstitious and has loose sexual morals, she puts her faith in Hale, a man whom she has only just met, but her greatest belief is in the sanctity of life. Meanwhile, Hale employs three different names trying to find anonymity in an effort to protect himself from a harsh world. All are struggling in their own way. Paradoxes and dualities therefore seem to represent what was happening in the wider community. Certainly like Greene’s Brighton, where beyond the gaudy attractions and bright lights of the front, everything appears depressed and decaying. Ida seems to embody a world turning from religion to man-made materialism.

However, all the characters are only very loosely and seem to lack any real substance and it is for that reason that I felt that there was something lacking. Whilst I found the chapter set at the racecourse with its dodgy bookies and gangs gratuitously slashing each other with knives entertaining, I found Pinkie’s angst with society at times interminable. In contrast Rose and Ida felt seriously underdeveloped. Certainly Ida is far from the typical detective.

Pinkie and Ida each try to impress their world view upon the Rose but in a world when we have seen such magnificent literary characters as Hannibal Lecter and Annie Wilkes (in Misery) he seemed lost rather than having any real menace or be frighteningly coercive. He just seems to have a very dim view of the world. Meanwhile in our hopefully more enlightened times it is hard to comprehend Rose's pig-headed devotion to him.

Overall I found this book still to be a powerful read and one that deserves to be continued to be widely read despite what I regard as its flaws. ( )
1 vote PilgrimJess | Mar 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
This is no book for those who would turn delicate noses away from the gutters and sewers of life; but there is nothing that could give the faintest gratification to snickerers. If it is as downright as surgery, it is, also, as clean as a clinic. There is not an entirely admirable character in it; but there is not one that can, by any chance, be forgotten nor one that could be set aside as untrue to life.
 
Why does this bleak, seething and anarchic novel still resonate? Its energy and power is that of the rebellious adolescent, foreshadowing the rise of the cult of youth in the latter part of the 20th century. And while Catholicism may have given way to secularism, Pinkie ultimately realises that hell isn't located in some distant realm: it's right here, present on earth, all around us.
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greene, Grahamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Byfield, GrahamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coetzee, J.M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Joffe, RowanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsen, Magda HenrietteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindegren, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lladó Bausili, JuanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pade, HenningTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rojahn-Deyk, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibon, MarcelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tainio, TaunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallandro, LeonelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vernet, Maria TeresaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, SamuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'This were a fine reign:
To do ill and not hear of it again.'
THE WITCH OF EDMONTON
Dedication
First words
Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.
Hale knew they meant to murder him before he had been in Brighton three hours. [1956 ed.]
Quotations
[...] young men kept on arriving in huge motoring coats accompanied by small tinted creatures, who rang like expensive glass when they were touched but who conveyed an impression of being as sharp and tough as tin.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Bookplate: "From the library of Graham Greene"
Flap folder on inside back cover containing cut down dust jacket back and flap
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