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The Act of Love [Paperback]

Howard Jacobson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2009

No man has ever loved a woman and not imagined her in the arms of someone else.

Felix Quinn calls himself a happy man. He owns one of London's oldest antiquarian bookshops. He is married to and adores the beautiful Marisa. But a childhood experience has taught him that loss is intrinsic to love, and Felix realises that he can only be truly happy if his wife is sleeping with another man. Enter Marius into Marisa's affections. And now Felix must ask himself, is he really happy?

By the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099526735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099526735
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.8 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), the highly acclaimed The Act of Love and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize 2010-winning The Finkler Question. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Product Description


"It's Jacobson's genius that he uses Felix's perversion as a torture garden in which a hundred interlinked images, theories, arguments, stories and literary allusions flourish and blossom... A startling achievement: shocking, argumentative, funny, rude, querulous, intellectually bracing" (Independent)

"A gloriously literary, highly wrought narrative as darkly transgressive, as savage in its brilliance, as anything Jacobson has written... Jacobson is a connoisseur of the harm lovers inflict on each other: he rolls their recriminations on his tongue, savours the bile, relishes the sticky sweetness of passion, and tastes the salty tears that can never quench the perpetual thirst for love" (The Times)

"The narrative is masterly. Entertaining as well as erudite, it prompts reflections upon art, obsession, masculinity, betrayal and the nature of the erotic... serves above all to confirm his creator's mighty individual talent. There surely cannot be a more vigorously intelligent novelist than Howard Jacobson writing in this country today" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Howard Jacobson injects a kind of molten energy into English that makes it move like another language altogether... Obsession, hidden desires and the salacious thrill of voyeurism all play their part in this brawny tale of love's flagellant" (Daily Mail)

"Intense, powerful, surprisingly funny, totally affecting and deeply touching" (Observer)


`The... narrative is masterly. Entertaining as well as erudite, it prompts reflections upon art, obsession, masculinity, betrayal and the nature of the erotic... In The Act of Love, Felix Quinn's judicious and witty mining of literary tradition for the legacy of the dead serves above all to confirm his creator's mighty individual talent. There surely cannot be a more vigorously intelligent novelist than Howard Jacobson writing in this country today.' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love's spiral... 24 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Yet each man kills the thing he loves..." wrote Oscar Wilde, I might add, '...or else it kills him first.'
Felix Quinn (the novel's central character) chooses (or is chosen by?) jealousy, as his lethal weapon. The novel carries us along, as voyeur bordering on co-conspirator, as Felix plots to bring about the very condition he most fears, i.e. his wife lying in the arms of a lover. Why should he be so daft, you might ask? Because it is the only means he knows to experience the intense pain of love that surpasses all others in his experience. Far from opposites, love and hate constitute a double helix spiral, each dependent upon, and dependable for, the other. Wind yourself around this novel, or let it wind itself around you. It's quite a journey.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into fetishism 29 Jan 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
BEautifully written, generously sprinkled with literary references this is a tale of one mans fetish. He thrives on the agony of knowing, presuming, wanting to be cuckolded. Erotic without being titillating it's an interesting story of love, affairs but not quite betrayal. My book club all hated it, but I loved it. Perhaps I'm a little more liberated...
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give this book a chance! 24 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This novel was misunderstood by a number of reviewers when it first appeared. The crux of the matter seemed to be that they disagreed with the following statement from early on in the narrative:

"No man has ever loved a woman and not imagined her in the arms of someone else [...] You will sooner get a man to give away his money than admit he longs to give away his wife".

So says Felix Quinn, the narrator of this novel. For Quinn, it's only when his wife is in the arms of another and in the throes of a passionate affair he has orchestrated that he feels most truly in love with her. Indeed it is during those moments around 4pm, the "handover" hour when the wife is passed from husband to lover, that Quinn feels most alive.

So far, so weird for most of us (although if this doesn't sound alien and you enjoy a good cuckolding, then purchase this book immediately). Indeed it's one of the main reasons why this book got lukewarm reviews from critics who really should have known better. They made the basic mistake of thinking that Quinn (and/or Jacobson) was trying to assert a universal truth about all men desiring to be cuckolded. Of course it isn't true, but therein lies the rub for Quinn: he really DOES believe that and he gets into a terrible mess as a result.

Having a weird narrator of a novel is no reason for rejecting it. Make no mistake: this is a powerful story since it gets you right inside the mind of someone who seems, to the average man or woman, a sad and twisted individual, one more in love with notions, descriptions and his own imaginings than with real people.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a virtuoso performance 12 Oct 2009
I was initially resistant to this novel on the grounds that, after the first few pages I anticipated that this was going to be little more than Jacobson's take on the "literary prize" genre. Perhaps a parody on the pseudo academic literature that aims to please a select circle of academics,critics,and metropolitan self servers. Maybe he does allude to this,however there is also much to admire in this work.
The character study of the protagonist,Felix Quinn(FQ!) is terrific. The first person account of Felix's story brings out some remarkable prose that captures the sensitivity and nuances of his character with wit, irony, and sardonic social observation. As a literary study of love and sex as seen through the eyes of a disfunctional masochist the writer manages to maintain a sense of anticipation and reader involvement that displays great skill, humour and a disciplined structure.
At times the writing style tends to exemplify an essay rather than a novel,with frequent references to relevant works of literature and art. However most of this can be justified by the comparative relationships between writers, artists, their readers and critics, with the relationships in the novel. It certainly provides the author with the platform to impart his personal perspective and I feel he enjoys playing a game with us readers as well as the precious world of art and literature. Perhaps it may have worked better as a short story or a play but as with most of Jacobson's work there is much to enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsession 11 Mar 2011
By Gorilla
Format:Kindle Edition
This is only the second Jacobson novel I have read. "The Act Of Love" is so different from the Booker prize winner-which I loved- you have to compare it with other books about Obsession. Things like Roth's "Sabbath's Theatre", some of his "Kepesh" books, perhaps Updike's "Brazil", certainly "Lolita", McEwan's "Enduring Love" and Nicholson's "The Trial of True Love" and of course Leopold Bloom in "Ulysses". Each of the obsessions is different, but all require an explanation, a justification- if that is possible- and an account of the effects that this particular obsession has on the lives of the characters. Jacobson does all this admirably. I don't feel envious of Felix Quinn, who has an overwhelming emotional and erotic desire to contemplate, see and hear his wife in amorous conjunction with another man, but Jacobson makes it possible to understand why someone might. The style of the writing is comedic, ironic and humorous; the range of emotions explored is very wide but tragedy is never very far away. The novel starts with a funeral and ends with a funeral, but whose? There is the very satisfying twist at the end. Enuff said! A wonderful read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Audio Erotic
Jacobsen's book broaches the somewhat taboo subject of those who find the unfaithfulness of their partner to be stimulating. Read more
Published 9 months ago by RR
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius Jacobson
Howard Jacobson must be a little bit crazy like most geniuses .
I love his style ... regardless of what he writes about . A pleasure in itself. Read more
Published 12 months ago by El Massri
1.0 out of 5 stars Words, words
This is a self-indulgent, over-wordy book. It is based on a nonsensical premise. It's been a complete waste of my life.
Published 20 months ago by Simon Rubin
5.0 out of 5 stars The act of love
This is the first book by Howard Jacobson which I have read. It is a strange and compelling work of literature. Read more
Published on 4 April 2012 by Mr. A. Mcinnes
4.0 out of 5 stars The Act Of Love
For many readers, especially those more familiar with Jacobson's Booker long-listed and winning novels Kalooki Nights and The Finkler Question, The Act Of Love may prove something... Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2012 by David Llewellyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and candid exploration of psychological masochism
A striking book, patiently describing an experience too few works are willing to explore. Jacobson is much better than Sacher Masoch, and his perceptions regarding submissive... Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2011 by Anon
5.0 out of 5 stars for the decadents out there!
This queasy, wry, hilarious tale is - for those who don't take themselves too seriously - a great read. I spent hours cackling to myself down the pub. Read more
Published on 11 April 2010 by Ben
2.0 out of 5 stars act of love
could have been more detailed on the characters of the wife and lover.Attempts to be a high brow look at the subject matter,which is quite entertaining to begin with but I think... Read more
Published on 23 July 2009 by douglas livingston
1.0 out of 5 stars Foreplay
I've never read this book and strongly recommend others to not read it as thoroughly. What I have read is Howard Jacobson's first book, in which many of the defamees were known to... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2009 by BWE
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