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The Rachel Papers

Martin Amis

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage Classics

Published : 2009

Copyright : Martin Amis 1973

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-950387-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-950387-3

Publisher's Write-Up

In his uproarious first novel Martin Amis, author of the bestselling London Fields, gave us one of the most noxiously believable - and curiously touching - adolescents ever to sniffle and lust his way through the pages of contemporary fiction.

Charles Highway, a precociously intelligent and highly sexed teenager, is determined to sleep with an older woman before he turns twenty. Rachel fits the bill perfectly and Charles plans his seduction meticulously, sets the scene with infinite care - but it doesn't come off quite as Charles expects.

'Amis's arrogantly assured manner is a formidable weapon, spraying the target with disdainful wit, ingenious obscenity, astute literariness, loathing, lust, anxiety and an all-pervading hyper-self-consciousness.'


'Amis has brought off the feat of satirizing his contemporaries while making them both funny and, in a bizarre way, moving. Scurrilous, shameless and very funny .'

Times Literary Supplement
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (310110) Rating (8/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 8/10

Spoiler Alert

Martin Amis’s debut novel The Rachel Papers contains many of the themes and the writing style that he would develop in much of his later work.

Charles Highway is not what could be described as a typical romantic hero. He is not handsome, suffers from a myriad of mild health complaints, does not take easily to sports, and is most often to be found studying, when he is not with a succession of Girlfriends.

A dysfunctional family, and his aspirations to go to Oxford, and sleep with an older woman are the back drop to his life. Rachel fits the bill perfectly, she is older, good looking, and faintly exotic, with a back-ground far removed from Charles’s. They have a friendship that is based around many of the same things. The poetry with which Charles seduces other women works on Rachel, but only because she knows it. The only problem is her boyfriend, Deforest. He has a campaign to seduce her, and the more time they spend together, the better his plan seems to be going. They meet each other’s families, spend a lot of time with each other, and have realistic sex, not the type that is described in books, but of the teenage variety.

Charles has issues with his father, and writes an epic letter to him, that he never finishes. He has a teenage writing project he must finish before he hits twenty, and he has to revise for exams, so he can escape the fate that has befallen many of the people he knows.

The characters are all well drawn, with the relationships between Charles, and his siblings, and his Mother and Father working well, although the scene where Charles meets his father’s latest Mistress at his sister and brother-in-law’s flat shows just how cruel his father can be, particularly towards his wife.

The realms of Academia are well described, with Charles being offered the place at Oxford, only so he can’t get any worse.

The story is well told, and well written, although at times the self-pitying Charles as narrator can be a bit much, and some of the characters could have been better drawn. Rachel’s boyfriend Deforest, for example, is allowed very little depth, whilst Rachel’s character is not as well developed as it might have been.

There was a film made of the book, but it did not really go anywhere, and is different to the story told in the book. The book has no happy ending, but a fitting one. Rachel has gone back to Deforest, and Charles is seen writing in his room, as the clock strikes 12.00, and he turns 20.
Ben Macnair (31st January 2010)

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