22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I Have Ever Read
I can't believe I'm the first person to review this book!
The books narator, Charles Highway, is the most charasmatic and endearing charactor in a book since Holden Caufield. The story he tells is a simple one concerning a short time in a young mans life when he has his first proper realtionship. The basic storyline - Charles vows to have a sexual relationship with...
Published on 22 Jun 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Defiantly Adolescent
The Rachel Papers was first published in 1973. As an up-and-coming literary critic, with a famous novelist father and a job on the TLS, Martin Amis's debut novel was always going to set the literati aflutter. The book itself was an assured performance and one that openly signposted the themes Amis would rework over the next forty-years. It may be a defiantly adolescent...
Published 8 months ago by S Kemp
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I Have Ever Read,
By A Customer
The books narator, Charles Highway, is the most charasmatic and endearing charactor in a book since Holden Caufield. The story he tells is a simple one concerning a short time in a young mans life when he has his first proper realtionship. The basic storyline - Charles vows to have a sexual relationship with an older women before he reaches 20, and is prepared to use every means possible to impress the girl he finds (Rachel).
The books is funny and witty as well as touching. Don't be put off by the crude lanuage, Martin Amis has some serious things to say and his observations on teenage attidutes are frightingly accurate. This is a very relevent book. If you looking for non stop action, then look else where, but if your looking for a funny and moving novel that won't take long to read (but an age to forget) then I can't recommend this enough. Ignore people who say the book is too high on crude sexual content, this is nessary to accuratly portray teenage attidutes to sex. Amis is a very hard hitting writer who doesn't hold back in what he says, so the easily offened may be, well, offended by this book.
This, as the title of my review says, is the best book I have ever read. I admire Amis for his bravery and his ability to create a charater so flawed and then have you almost weeping for him. If you liked The Catcher In The Rye or A Clockwork Orange, you should love this
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book,
By A Customer
But the first-person description of CH himself is really the core of the novel. Every twisted, nasty thought that any teenager has ever had is there in Charles, while he masquarades to himself and us as a polite, bookish, intellectual. In fact we are quietly led to believe what Charles believes of himself: that he is a cut-above the rest of the world---nasty but moral, calculating yet capable of love. It is only at the end that Amis lets us see the truth: that Charles is really just an intellectual fraud with no redeeeming features at all. He abandons the possibly pregnant Rachel with a callousness that even his much-hated father would have been incapable of. By contrast, Rachel ends up a far more noble charachter than we had any reason to believe when seen through Charles' overly self-regarding eyes.
In a sense this should be regarded as an early feminist novel. The male characters are so odious that it is hard to say a good word for them. (Though why, one wonders, have no female novelists plunged this far into the dark side of women's psyches?) But the question that must really be at the top of everyone's mind when they read this novel is: to what extent is this a portrait of the teenage Amis himself? The answer that most readers will probably come away with is, surely quite a lot. But that makes this novel a colossally brave affair, not just the clever, excoriatingly funny satire, that it seems on first read. A terrific book.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very ambivalent and very Amis,
Charles Highway, the main character, sees no point in life - that's exactly why he seduces Rachel. There's only a sense of meaningless play left, he's an actor in his own life. And it is that kind of vulnarability that shimmers on the pages.
The whole book, the shape, the tone, the language breathes like that, like Charles wants to hide from that, but he can't. Yet, it seems there's some sense in the act of playing too - and that goes for the writer as well. Very ambivalent and very Amis.
Great to see that this kind of brilliance was already present in his debut. Amis rocks!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books,
This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Paperback)I first read this book 6 years ago when I was 16 and I loved it, I've read it many times since and would say it's one of my favourite books, along with Dead Babies, actually. I adore the unrelenting, beautiful crudeness of the descriptions as well as the style of the writing, it constantly impresses Amis' masterful control of the language. Almost every-other line contains an original, precious and quotable, phrase.
I think the people that would enjoy this book the most are possibly males around the same age as, and who identify at least somewhat with, Charles Highway. Ultimately, beyond the hilarity of the prose, it's quite a sad and moving book. It maybe slightly immature for the older reader, but then again, it is exuberantly funny and cleverly written.
The main accusation levelled at Martin Amis about this book is that it is almost entirely autobiographical, a claim he refuted to some degree in Experience. This didn't stop it winning the Somerset Maugham Award, and it won't stop you enjoying this great piece of writing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Ace,
4.0 out of 5 stars Still shocks 40 years on,
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & true to life,
This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)I don't see why other reviewers have such a problem with this book. I am twenty years old: the character in the novel is 19, verging on 20. His experiences in the book (with women, life and university) are similar to my own. This made the book more personal to me and therefore I found it to be all the more enjoyable. Amis perfectly captures the awkward stage of a full grown teenager broaching the threshold of adulthood. Hilarious, charming and sometimes good and dirty! Think no further, buy this book!
3.0 out of 5 stars Defiantly Adolescent,
This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)The Rachel Papers was first published in 1973. As an up-and-coming literary critic, with a famous novelist father and a job on the TLS, Martin Amis's debut novel was always going to set the literati aflutter. The book itself was an assured performance and one that openly signposted the themes Amis would rework over the next forty-years. It may be a defiantly adolescent book, solipsistic and arrogant, over-written and pretentious, but it is also very funny. In fact, its humour redeems it, as there are many flaws, some of which have continued to undermine Amis's oeuvre to this day.
Charles Highway is a nineteen-year-old on the cusp of turning twenty. But before he reaches the 'noisome Brobdingnagian world' of adulthood, he feels a cathartic urge to relate the turmoil of the past few months, a tumultuous period beset by existential terrors. Nevertheless, his primary concern, despite the worries of his Oxford entrance exams and his dysfunctional family, has been the seduction of Rachel Noyes. Their relationship, though, for all its frantic interplay, merely provides Charles with a springboard for his philosophical speculations, puerile rants, and disquisitions on gender. Amusing, yes, but they leave Charles looking increasingly abhorrent, a feeling reiterated by the novel's callous denouement.
As a critic, Amis has always been rather scathing of cliché. The Rachel Papers, however, is strewn with clichés and loose writing. On the very first page we have 'avoids like the plague' followed by the sloppy alliteration of 'haggard hippies' and 'precarious queers getting their caps and crowns'. The novel may be narrated by Charles Highway, and therefore not Martin Amis, but there is rarely much distance between the styles of Amis's narrators and his own acerbic prose. So: is Amis poking fun at Highway's literary pretensions, or are these genuine faults in the text?
Although it is unwise to read a book with the author's life in mind, there is simply too much here to miss. Charles criticises Vanessa for her 'mid-Atlantic accent', yet this is the authorial accent of all Amis's fiction; furthermore, the narrative also pinpoints two of Amis's most enduring foibles: his incapability 'of using words without stylizing' them and having a 'vocabulary more refined than...[his] emotions'. Even so, Amis's youthful cockiness is easily forgiven. The novel may have its blotches, but it was a necessary apprentice work, and one that opened up the pathway to his undisputed masterpiece: Money.
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, compelling, and funny,
This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Paperback)The Rachel Papers was my first Martin Amis novel and I liked it enough that I would read Amis again, most definitely. People say his subsequent efforts, such as Money and London Fields, are brilliant, and based on this book - published (if my math is right) when the author was 24 - I imagine they are. What a talent to write that well at that age. In terms of style and ability, it reads like a novel penned by someone twice as old.
The story (a narrative told on the day before the protagonist's 20th birthday, recounting the previous pre-university year) revolves around Charles Highway and his "first love" Rachel, though it's unclear if Charles really loves Rachel (or anything, or anyone, besides perhaps William Blake). Charles, you see, isn't a very nice person. He is an exceptionally bright and an exceptionally egomaniacal and shallow 19 year old. He lies, he manipulates; he's cold. But he knows he's not a nice fellow (indeed, he tells you precisely why), so this articulate candour makes for humour, and the book is really funny in places. And it's that can't-see-it-coming humour, the best kind. I particularly liked the line (after some confessional about some inadequacy or personal issue) `My heart really went out to me there.' It's an interesting premise for a first-person narrative; Charles is effectively saying, "I'm a worm, and here's why I'm a worm."
The only problem I had with the book is that it is a sort of literary teen romance - very literary in places, but very teen romance in others. It made me think back to those zit-concerned, first girlfriend days: sneaking around behind parents' backs, thinking "oldsters" were quite lame, and all that jazz - but at times it came across as too teen-edition-Harlequin-romance. I didn't really need a description of fumbling for buttons or a step by step through opening a condom package (well maybe one, but not two or three). You get to an age where reading about that kind of thing loses appeal. But what else could a 24 year old have written about?
The character Kevin, Charles's bother-in-law, is priceless - endless comedy, certainly based on a real person. Kevin is a kitchen-sitting, booze guzzling, card playing lout who likes to indulge Charles in banal conversation or locker-room talk about his sister (and Charles doesn't seem to mind because he admits he thinks his sister is hot!). Kevin's not a very nice person either, so he and Charles (or so Kevin thinks) seem to have a connection.
I wonder what Martin Amis thinks of this book. It was written in 1973, and Amis has since gone on to become a literary giant. Most writers wish their first couple of efforts would disappear.
I thought The Rachel Papers was a good read. I imagine twenty-somethings with good taste in literature (and a sense of humour) would find it a great one.
Troy Parfitt, author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis (Paperback - 13 Aug 2003)