Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Brighton Rock'- Review

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 978-0-099-47847-8

Length: 282 Pages

Opening Line: ' Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.'


Firstly, apologies if you were expecting a review on Octavia Butler's 'Kindred'. I have recently joined an online book group and after a lot of trouble with Play.Com (see previous posts) I received my copy late and had to ditch my plans to review 'Kindred', in order to finish 'Brighton Rock'. I promise that I will post a review on 'Kindred' some time in the future.

The book 'Brighton Rock' is set in Brighton during the 1930's where a chance meeting between journalist Fred Hale and barmaid Ida Arnold, leads to Fred's unexpected death. Ida then takes in upon herself to investigate the truth behind the mystery and this leads to a story of gangsters, violence, deceipt and undying love between Rose, a naive, innocent waitress who is manipulated into the sordid world by Pinkie,a 17 year old rookie gang leader.

For me, this was a book that I neither liked nor disliked. I found it interesting.

Starting with the positives, I thought that this novel was PACKED with atmosphere.Graham Greene uses descriptive narrative to illustrate to the reader how/ what a character is thinking or feeling. He also uses wonderful contrasts between the image of Brighton as a family seaside resort and the darker, dingy world of the gangsters. This gives distinctions between the two social layers of the town. I'm not usually a fan of books with a lot of description in them, but I think that this was one of the best things about the novel.

I also like the way in which Greene plays with stereotypes. Throughout the book, the author twists the reader's perception of certain characters, particularly Rose and Ida. Also the symbolism used throughout the book is interesting, because Greene uses the ideas of the good/evil, religion/ sin through his characters to focus on deeper concepts.

On the negative side, I found the conclusion of the mystery rather flimsy. I felt cheated that I was drawn into the mystery, only to feel as if 'what was the point?' I also question why Ida felt the need to get involved in the investigation, when it hadn't much to do with her anyway, as she and Hale were relative strangers.

Also, whereas the descriptions of the landscape and seaside evoked feeling and depth, the majority of the characters left me some what disappointed. I felt that they were not as fleshed out as they could have been. The gang members were not developed enough to connect with them and they left me a little cold. The most disappointing were the female characters. Even though Greene uses these two characters as a play for stereotyping, I think that Greene could have made more of this to make the two more interesting.

At the beginning of the novel, Ida is perceived to be the one who is driving the story forward. However instead of following her throughout her investigation, for me she became a bit part character, who appeared and reappeared when the writer felt like it. Also, Rose had a lot of potential to become a intriguing character. She is perceived to be someone who 'butter wouldn't melt in her mouth', but during the book it is revealed that she isn't as innocent as she seems. However, instead of persuing the idea and making her a more sinister character, this just fades into nothing and I feel that if this were explored more, she could have been an exciting character.

The most fleshed out and intriguing character throughout the novel, was Pinkie. He reminded me of a sinister version of Holden Cauldfield, although instead of hiding his naivety of life and sexuality through putting up a front with intellect, Pinkie hides his through violence and manipulation. Holden did have redeeming features about him but Pinkie is selfish, calculating and evil. I think that within the character, I felt that Greene was commenting on the concept of the human concious and sub-concious mind and the fine line between a person's perception of right and wrong.

Overall this novel is not without flaws, but I thought that this was an entertaining page turner.

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