Sunday, 13 February 2011

I still like Graham Greene, despite Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (Vintage, 1938). A novel set in 1930s Brighton, following the fortunes of a 17 year old aspiring gangster as he copes with the fall out of his first killing. He’s pursued throughout by the ‘life embracing’ Ida Arnold, as the realities of life on the wrong side of Brighton’s tracks are exposed.
 All the signs were good. I like Brighton (evidence in holiday snap form below...) We’ve been there a few times, and enjoyed it each time.
I also like Graham Greene. I started reading some of his books about a year ago, and have enjoyed a quite a few of them.
Also, I like reading about crime, and Brighton Rock is a novel centred around the criminal underworld of 1930s Brighton.
So, it couldn’t miss, right?
You’ve probably guessed by now that it did miss, for me at least. There’s something hugely disappointing about being let down by a book. I mean, it’s Graham Greene. This is a guy who is an undisputed great. He wrote some amazing novels. And this was supposed to be one of them. But it didn’t work for me.

Me, in Brighton. See, I do like it really. Just not the book.

It was just far too average. The characters were OK, but didn’t really jump out of the pages. The plot was fine, but it plodded along to a bit of a convoluted climax. The setting was pretty interesting, but got old quick. The story telling was good (this is Graham Greene, after all) but it didn’t have enough material in it to really keep me glued to the page.
The sum total was just something that was a bit...blegh. I carried the book around with me for two or three weeks. I never relished picking it up again in the morning on the way to work. I got to the stage where I just wanted to finish it so I could read something more interesting, more compelling, something with more punch...just something else.
Every book has hundreds of opportunities to grab you. Every time you turn the page, it has a chance to draw you in. You spend enough time with it for it to, at the very least, grow on you. There are millions of books that can arrest your attention. This one simply never managed it for me.
In an entertainment world where there are countless options for your time, this book doesn’t deserve it. Go read a different Graham Greene book. He is still one of my favourite authors. He wrote a lot of novels, and I suppose they can’t all be brilliant. This one proves it.
And three of those GBR are purely because it’s Graham Greene.
I’m sure the reputation of Brighton Rock will just about survive the blow of me not liking it very much. Just about. Hell, even I'll still go watch the new film. It has got Helen Mirren in it after all.


James p collins esq. said...

Controversial! If your looking for some different style books to review I highly recommend both American gids by Neil gaiman and the gargoyle by Andrew davidson. Both on my personal top 5 list.

Gav Collins said...

I've read American Gods and Anansi Boys by Gaiman, hugely enjoyed them both, so will review at some stage. Never heard of Gargoyle, one to add to the list!

Anonymous said...

Gav - I have a pristine copy of The Gargoyle - it's yours.

I'll hand it to Mrs Collins when I see her next.


Gav Collins said...

Nice. The blog pays its way. Now, if only I can get some free room and board out of it.