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25 of 29 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...
Published on 22 Jun. 2000

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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 on 9 April 2013 by s k


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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I Have Ever Read, 22 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Paperback)
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 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
P x
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3.0 out of 5 stars Defiantly Adolescent, 9 April 2013
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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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, compelling, and funny, 22 Feb. 2012
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Teenage kicks, 15 Jun. 2014
An uncannily credible account of a randy, neurotic 19 year old told with great wit and blunt language that will have you laughing out loud and re-reading some sentences in shock. The main character Charles Highway is a self-obsessed, over-analytical English literature loving neurotic from whom we find out his basest emotions and schemes. For some the candour is too much, but it is done to keep the reader engaged in what would otherwise be a petty teenage romance. It is best viewed as an expose on how shallow, emotionally feeble, excitable and incredibly fun the mind of a 19 year old on the brink of adult responsibility and maturity really is. The character is partially based on Martin Amis's experiences as a teenager in London in the late 1960s and he obviously takes delight in mocking his younger self by putting him in perilous, humiliating situations - eg desperately trying to chat up girls at a party, putting a condom on in the dark, worrying about spots. If there is a criticism, it is that all the best drawn characters are male - our hero Charles, his pompous father and his brutish brother-in-law Norman. Rachel is needy, shallow and insubstantial and similarly we get to understand little of his mother and sister. In its favour, Amis uses Charles to vent his own precocious ability at seeing through the pomposity, brutishness and snobbery of those around him and of 1970's home counties/ London society in general.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ace, 17 Dec. 2013
By 
R. Hateley "busy person" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Funny clever entertaining and a bit ridiculous. Honestly portrayed but unpleasant character with shocking insight into sexism and sexual ignorance in 1970s.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better than I was expecting ..., 11 Mar. 2015
... Though my expectations were not high, having over the years read several poor reviews of the younger Amis. The Rachel Papers is his first novel, semi-autobiographical, based on his late-teens and written when he was in his early twenties, and although it lacks a plot, beyond the usual boyish obsessions with laying as many girls as possible, it is at least entertaining. Well, I found it entertaining anyway, though I must admit it helps if you still enjoy schoolboy humour, some of it fairly unpleasant.
Much of the appeal for me was a kind of nostalgia for the student life, and indeed for the general feel, of the late-60s early-70s. I doubt anyone much younger than fifty would get much out of it.

On the minus side, it's a bit lacking in characterization, especially the females, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the main character, Charles, seems very immature: an odd mixture of acknowledging his own (many) bad points, while at the same time thinking himself incredibly clever. Not at all likable, but at least we can laugh at his failings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still shocks 40 years on, 15 Dec. 2013
Very stylish and quite poignant, this novel of middle-class teenage bad behaviour shocks but doesn't really offend as it's all in context. I thought the film had the better ending but it's nowhere near as sordid as the book. Some fabulous set pieces and aphorisms.
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4.0 out of 5 stars MARTIN AMIS AT HIS UNDERSTADINGLY BEST, 8 Mar. 2014
I often find Martin Amis's hard going, lots of references to literature and Greek mythology, and words that I cannot pronounce let alone understand, but I did enjoy this novel. I would imagine that Charles Highway is similar to Martin Amis himself, I have certainly seen some reference to his problematical teeth. The novel is short enough not to get too bogged down, but long enough to cover the exploits of Charles Highway the narrator in the novel. Amis writes as it is, and goes into detail that somehow make the novel more realistic. An enjoyable read, though not for people easily upset by writing as it is
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & true to life, 7 Sept. 2013
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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!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very ambivalent and very Amis, 9 May 2003
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This review is from: The Rachel Papers (Paperback)
Allright, I will probably be crazy - but I have never read Amis' debut merely as a satire, a funny book or a study of adolescent psychology (or a combination of all that). There are funny parts, sure, but in a very non-funny way. "The Rachel papers" is, all in all, a very touching and sad book.
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!
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The Rachel Papers
The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis (Paperback - 26 July 1984)
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