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Brighton Rock (1938)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,7321021,830 (3.73)367
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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English (97)  Swedish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Brighton Rock has great characters, but the plot set up was rather vague and/or hard to follow. Charles 'Fred' Hale is a journalist visiting Brighton to drop off cards at certain points - and if members of the public find these cards and say what the Kolley Kibber (the man who drops the cards off) looks like they get a cash prize. Have I got that right?

Fred has annoyed local mobsters by writing about one of their scams and so the seventeen-year-old gang leader Pinkie, murders him. At the inquest Fred's death is deemed to have been from natural causes. However, a number of people have seen things and Pinkie must deal with them. He's not a likable young man, he's violent and selfish despite being a tee-totaling Catholic. Ida, a woman of about forty with often mentioned large breasts, is with Fred just before he dies. She knows something is up and aims to get to the bottom of things. A young waitress, Rose has also seen something she shouldn't have but she falls in love with the sex-averse Pinkie. Rose is as ignorant of the larger world as they come but she has courage. This being Greene there is a lot of talk of hell and damnation from Pinkie and Rose, while Ida believes in none of it. Ida represents common sense and the enjoyment of simple pleasures like drink and, by the number of affairs she is having, sex. Rose and Ida are the most interesting and certainly most sympathetic characters in the book. Each of the three main members of Pinkie's gang has their moment in the story - none of them is as ruthless as the young leader.

Colleoni, the big mob boss won't take rival Pinkie seriously as a leader because of his youth and this, like most things, sparks immense anger and hatred in Pinkie. There is a fight between the rival gangs at the horse races with people slashing each other with razors. The writers of the "Peaky Blinders" TV series must have been fans of Brighton Rock.

Pinkie - I don't think I spoil things for you here - will come to a bad end, which wasn't as hard to take as in "The Heart of the Matter", Greene's novel that I read just before this one, in which I really liked Scobie, the doomed protagonist.

Seaside Brighton comes alive in the book, the foreshore, the fairs, the pubs and the doss houses. ‘Frank’s’ the boarding house, where Pinkie and his mobsters live is a particular highlight. Greene doesn’t give too much description of the place, just the odd telling detail: the crumbs on the bed, the stove which hasn’t been lit in weeks. This was an enjoyable read but I’m still on a mission to find my favourite Greene novel. I would advise reading J.M Coetzee's introduction to Brighton Rock AFTER reading the book as it includes a surprising amount of plot spoilers. (Much more than in this review!) ( )
  FEBeyer | Oct 25, 2021 |
Books like this miserable effort are not helping me out of my current reading slump. And I'm sure I remember being forced to study Graham Greene's 'classic' at school, which would make sense - there is no story as such, just literary devices and themes to discuss, like Catholicism (I wish authors would stop harping on about religion - Greene and Waugh, I'm looking at you).

The characters are all hateful and pathetic too, which is a bit of a struggle for readers who value characterisation over action. 'Pinkie' Brown, the teenage oik at the centre of the story who is only ever referred to as 'The Boy', is supposed to be reprehensible - although I'm not sure if Greene also wanted his readers to sympathise with the little idiot - but Rose, the still younger and dumber twittery waitress Pinkie marries to shut her up, is beyond ridiculous. I only continued reading to test the ending against my imagination - he dies laughably, but I wanted them both to suffer for making me read 300 pages of cod theological bilge. Greene even ruins the one moderately likeable character in the whole novel, Ida Arnold, by repeatedly telling and not showing how good and brave and honest she is.

I'm tempted to watch the 2010 adaptation out of spite, just because of the changes made to the characters, settings and story! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Sep 18, 2021 |
This is a great book. The four star rating is only because this thing was so gritty and filled me with anxiety. Apparently, that's not my bag. Felt like these characters were fleshed out and not the usual lineup of ingénue, villain and hero. ( )
  ednasilrak | Jun 17, 2021 |
Brighton Rock may not be a clearly delineated parable; however, it offers the reader an astounding theological principal.
"Newspaperman," Charles (Fred) Hale betrays mob leader, Kite, to a rival group which results in his murder. Pinkie Brown, seventeen-year-old aspirant to leadership of the mob of toughs, takes charge, and, during a murderous assault, Hale dies of an apparent heart attack. Knowing he is guilty of murder, Pinkie is driven to eliminated one after another of those he sees as a threat. Chief among these is Rose Wilson whom he first threatens disfigurement with sulfuric acid, then decides to marry to prevent her from testifying against him. The virginal Pinkie is revolted by women in general and particularly abhors and is revolted by Rose. Sixteen-year-old Rose is completely innocent of men and is profoundly moved by the attention (though mean and sometimes vicious) given her by Pinkie. She loves him completely and complies with his every perverted demand. Ida Arnold, a loose living woman guided only by a sense of justice and the scribblings from a planchette, becomes the nemesis of Pinkie and his mob when she learns of Hale's death. Ida tries to persuade Rose to escape from the murderous Pinkie, and to protect Rose she uses subterfuge to confront the two of them just as Pinkie has convinced Rose to join him in a double suicide - which he intends as only hers. Seeing his plans foiled and believing he will be hanged for his crimes, Pinkie uses the vial of sulfuric acid he has carried with him to bring about his own horrible end.
Following Pinkie's death, Rose visits a confessional, not to confess her sins because she has not repented, but to ascertain if, because of her previous religiosity, she might be granted mercy not afforded Pinkie and thus not join him in death. The priest offers the following pronouncement: "...greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his soul for his friend."
  RonWelton | Jun 10, 2021 |
This tale of mob and murder does not always hit and strike but the appeal of its blasphemy suffices to keep my attention throughout. As there is also, of course, the intriguing moral blind spots occasionally seized by nagging guilt, Brighton Rock loses its steam with its seemingly shakable logic as violence and deceit accelerate. The dry faith in god crumbles, so is the saturated gangsterism loyalty. And whilst the suspense and thrill do take a large amount of its narrative they slowly dissipate as the keen awareness of the characters’ sinful leanings gear towards either self-consuming avarice or self-consuming veracity (or self-consuming romanticism). These characters do flatten themselves at times to give way to some action that Graham Greene’s prose tries to dangerously balance itself between being piquant and insipid. It does succeed I say though it lacks the quality of a page-turning thriller. Still, Brighton Rock is quite an agreeable story long enough to settle both its moral and immoral accounts satisfyingly and short enough not to completely infuriate. ( )
  lethalmauve | Jan 25, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (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.
Greene's entertainments look better now than most of his pretentious and overpraised 'serious novels'. One of the few British crime novels of the time which matched the modernist tone of the Americans, while remaining completely authentic.
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Mike Phillips (May 31, 2000)

» 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
Grandfield, GeoffIllustratorsecondary 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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'This were a fine reign:
To do ill and not hear of it again.'
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.]
[...] 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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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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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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