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He claimed with dreary pride, ‘I suppose I’m real Brighton’, as if his single heart contained all the cheap amusements, the Pullman cars, the unloving weekends in gaudy hotels, and the sadness after coition.

Graham Green’s gang-war novel, Brighton Rock, gives you a slightly different view of Brighton to the Royal Pavilion. A hundred years after George the paint is still cracking, the dirty weekends away still dirty, but Green’s anti-hero Pinkie can’t rely on a Royal edict to sort out his problems.

The novel begins as Pinkie kills a man by choking him with a stick of Brighton rock candy, and follows his increasingly desperate attempts to take out the witnesses. Steadfast in his Catholic faith but resigned to eternal damnation, Pinkie takes the reader on a tour of Brighton’s underbelly in the 1930’s.

Cos opolitan

While I enjoyed Brighton Rock, some aspects of the narrative are a little trying. All female characters fall into two types: either bony, timid and manipulative or buxom, bawdy and motherly. Both types are viewed by Pinkie with barely contained disgust. It reflects the main character’s fear of women well, but was a bit difficult for me to read at times.

The novel has some really nice poetic parts, like when he’s trying to trick his wife into killing herself in a fake suicide pact: “He put out his mouth and kissed her on the cheek; he was afraid of the mouth – thoughts travel too easily from lip to lip.”

Green divided his novels up into ‘serious’ works and ‘amusements’. Brighton Rock was one of his serious novels. To me it read more like a good tawdry thriller, but I can imagine that for others the story of tested faith in Godless times might be quite moving.

Pier

I was interested to read that Graham Green is related to Robert Louis Stevenson. Robert Louis Stevenson is everywhere.

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