How to make a wedding miserable: Graham Greene

the book:

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

published 1938   Part 6  chapter 2

[Rose and Pinkie are about to get married.]

"...She had tricked herself up for the wedding, discarding the hat he hadn’t liked: a new mackintosh, a touch of powder and cheap lipstick. She looked like one of the small gaudy statues in an ugly church: a paper crown wouldn’t have looked odd on her or a painted heart: you could pray to her but wouldn’t expect an answer.

‘Where’ve you been?’ the Boy said. ‘Don’t you know you’re late?’

They didn’t even touch hands. An awful formality fell between them..."


Trying really hard not to say ‘Only a man could have written this description’. Anyone could write anything, such distinctions aren’t helpful. But really – this sounds like one of those Graham Greene parodies that GG himself did so well, as British intellectuals love to tell you. (Though he’s supposed only to have been runner-up in a contest for such parodies.) She doesn’t look like any old statue, she looks like ‘you could pray to her but wouldn’t expect an answer.’ Doesn’t sound much like the Rose described everywhere else in the book. She is about to get married to wicked Pinkie, who is worried she could testify against him. They are two guilt-ridden Catholics about to have a short marriage made in hell. It's a cheerless story, and calling Pinkie ‘the Boy’ is a rather unloveable affectation. And yet, and yet – it’s a book that sticks in the mind, and makes you believe that Brighton on a bank holiday in 1938 really was like that.

The photo is from the National Postal Museum collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and is featured on Flickr.