Monthly Archives: December 2021

A lesser Greene novel

Book cover of Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Graham Greene is one of my very favorite novelists. The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory, and many others of his are among both the most thoughtful and emotionally powerful novels I’ve ever read. Brighton Rock is an earlier book, released in 1938, and it shows. It concerns gangsters in a seaside resort in England and the fallout from a murder they’ve committed.

For about the first half, it all seemed somewhat ridiculous to me. Some of the characters almost blend into each other, drawn with none of the richness and depth found in later Greene novels. I was about to put the book down a couple of times, but I looked up reviews and found that many people seem to really love it, so I decided to keep going.

The book’s merits do build as it goes on. In the end, it becomes an examination of good and evil, of religious belief, and of human nature. The creative ending sequence was both jarring and thought provoking. You can see the seeds of brilliance that would blossom for his later novels. However, I’m not sure I could recommend this when there are so many wonderful Greene novels out there to be read. This is the tenth novel that I’ve read by him, and the one I enjoyed the least.

A good yarn

Cover of "The Queen's Gambit" by Walter Tevis

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Queen’s Gambit is a quick, fun read. It’s basically a story about a woman trying to break into a man’s world, jammed into a typical triumphant athlete story framework, except with chess as the sport.

I don’t know much about chess, but that didn’t really matter. Walter Tevis keeps you turning the pages with a fast-moving yarn. There’s not a whole lot of depth to the characters, but Beth Harmon is a fascinating creation, and the sparse writing style fits the elusive nature of her personality well.

This is great for reading on the beach or while traveling. The Netflix series that’s based on it is very well done, too. It made some different story choices, but both versions work well.