The first Graham Greene novel I read was The End of the Affair (you can see my thoughts here) and I was impressed by this short but complex story. In the comments of that post, I was recommended Greene’s Brighton Rock by Louise from Book a Week: A Challenge to Read 52 Books in a Year which encouraged me to push the book up my TBR and order a copy from the library.
Pinkie, leader of one of the mobs in Brighton’s underworld, has killed a man and is desperate to cover up his involvement in the murder. But he hasn’t counted on Ida, a woman who met the man when he was certain he was going to be killed. Courageous and full of life, she resolutely tries to discover the truth behind his death and bring those who killed him to justice.
I went in to reading Brighton Rock wrongly assuming it would be more like a murder mystery. But the murder happens within the first few chapters and we know who’s committed the crime. Yet the formidable Ida doesn’t and it’s this that adds suspense throughout the novel as the reader follows her getting closer to finding out the truth. Adding to the suspense, we can see from Pinkie and his mob’s perspective as they try to cover their tracks and throw her off the scent. Because of this, the first half of the novel is full of suspense as we watch Ida getting closer to the mob and Pinkie going to more extreme measures to avoid getting caught. The second half of the novel features less of Ida, which is a shame because she’s a fantastic character who adds light and humour to the novel, and it focusses more on Pinkie and becomes more of an analysis and critique of morality and Catholicism.
Brighton Rock tells a wonderful and fast-paced story and there were parts where I absolutely loved Greene’s storytelling. The ending – particularly the last sentence – is brilliant and memorable, which also leaves plenty for the reader to imagine even after the last page has been turned.
There is a cast of great characters in Brighton Rock which, despite the slower pace in the novel’s second half, still engrossed me in the story. There’s the confident and formidable Ida who is determined for justice to come to those who committed the murder, and the young and naïve Rose who, even though I felt infuriated with her at times, didn’t deserve to get caught up in the mobs. While these characters sometimes act as mouthpieces for Greene to write about Catholicism and morality, they are anything but two-dimensional. The mob leader Pinkie is young and I get the feeling that he is in too deep but his youth and ambition mean he’s desperate to prove himself. Rose, who knows too much about the events leading up to the murder for Pinkie’s liking, is naïve and young, but she shows strength in her decisions regarding Pinkie.
I loved Greene’s writing in The End of the Affair and I wasn’t disappointed by Brighton Rock. The seaside town of Brighton comes alive in Greene’s prose and I love the contrast between the happy, sunny, holiday town and the dark and menacing underworld of mobs and killings. There are wonderful descriptions throughout, too.
Brighton Rock is a well-written and tightly plotted book that I enjoyed reading. I’ve read various reviews that have said this novel is less polished than some of Greene’s other work, so I’m looking forward to trying some of his later fiction.
Have you read Brighton Rock? What did you think? Have you read any of Graham Greene’s other novels?