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Hardcover The Rachel Papers Book

ISBN: 0517567776

ISBN13: 9780517567777

The Rachel Papers

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Book Overview

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. On the brink of twenty, Charles High-way preps desultorily for Oxford, cheerfully loathes his father, and meticulously plots the seduction of a girl named Rachel -- a girl who sorely tests the mettle of his...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Rachel Papers Is Right On

It's the turbulent early 1970's in Martin Amis' funny yet powerful coming of age novel, The Rachel Papers. The book opens with the lead character, Charles Highway, sitting at home the night before his twentieth birthday, pondering his existence. He is trying to understand who he really is -- what he's done with his life so far -- and where he wants it to go. He believes that once he turns a "monumental" twenty, the core of his life will change dramatically. To get a fix on the last few months leading to this auspicious moment, Amis uses the literary device of the diary. Charles reviews entries dating three months past to try and get the perspective he wants to move his life forward. The reader learns from the start: Charles Highway is nothing if not methodical. Highway's journal also reveals that he is smart, cynical, open, charmingly devious and painfully insecure. The reader also learns that Highway has a complicated relationship with his family, whom he has little respect for and is more than willing to deceive. When his parents give him money to travel, he tells them he's in Spain. But in reality he's not far from their door -- partying in London. Rather than feel guilty about his deception, Highway casts a disapproving judgmental eye on his parent's private lives. His father is openly sleeping with another woman -- and his mother, who has let herself age not gracefully -- doesn't seem to care. But what really irks Highway is that other than this misstep there's not much dramatically wrong with his family. There are the usual ups and downs, but that's not enough! Charles craves something to be angry at. He yearns for big sweeps of drama. As the book moves along, the reader gets to relive Charles adventures in London which are focused mainly on a Boy Meets Girl theme. At one of the many parties he attends, Charles meets Rachel and it's boom -- instant attraction. But love isn't a simple matter -- and true to form -- Amis lets his characters play the game. For the next month or so Charles pursues Rachel relentlessly. Despite his usual cynicism, he finds himself wanting her intensely. Of course, there are obstacles to overcome including Rachel's ex-boyfriend who is still on the scene. Amidst the generational backdrop of drugs, drink, sex, even a somewhat humorous diagnosis of the "clap" -- Charles Highway finally wins the love of Rachel. But after getting the prize, for Highway,, the game is over; Charles becomes bored. He cheats on her with another girl -- and is caught. With Rachel out of his life, Charles sinks into a deeper reflection and eventually realizes two powerful truths. First, whether he likes it or not, he's like his father. (There goes the high ground!) Secondly, that in the end, he hasn't learned very much from the mind of a nineteen year old -- despite the whole trilogy of experience: love, sex and drugs. Charles is an intellectual but he lacks spontaneity, real social skills and genuine self confidence. That's why

The Rachel Papers Kick's But

The Rachel Papers is a one of a kind novel about the growing up of a boy from teens to the "ultimate" goal of 20. Written in the 1970's, the novel brings you through twists and turns of the era that includes sex, drugs, and passionate love. From the beginning, the main character Charles Highway is trying to understand who he truly is. Martin Amis shows this topic in subtle, yet giant ways. Martin Amis brings the tale of Charles Highway to life by showing him through himself. Charles Highway is sly, yet sophisticated all at the same time. For Charles to find himself, he begins to read journal entries of his past experiences to find out where he wants to take the rest of his life. We first find Charles Highway in his room explaining how he feels about how he feels as though his appearance will change everything. Amis shows this aspect of coming of age through Charles changes of appearances many times as though it will have a significant impact on him. In the first journal entry, Amis explains in a sophisticated yet critical way how Charles will act when dealing with different situations. As he enters the bus to travel, he places a book on the seat next to him entitled "A room with A View." Charles envisions that if people believe he is reading this particular novel, that he is a sophisticated young man. If his appearance can't show it, then this novel will depict it for the person in which he is talking to. Martin Amis wants to clearly explain how a character will change when faced with many obstacles. Throughout the novel, Martin Amis shows the change of Charles from young man with problems with girls to problems of taking drugs and becoming a hippie because this is what he believes he wants to become. To get away from the pain of losing his love, Charles Highway turns to the dreaded taste of drugs and alcohol. To do so, he finds his friend or who he thinks is his friend, Norman and heads out on yet another journey to find him self. When his parents learn of what has taken place, they ask to send Charles on vacation. He tells his parents he has headed to Spain, when he has yet only gone a few feet from their door in near side London. While in London, Charles finds he is still infatuated with girls, or "chicks," as he puts it. While out at a party, he sees this girl across the room from him and falls in love with her just by her looks. Amis explains in great detail how the mind of a teenage boy with the likes of Charles acts when he sees the girl of his dreams. He immediately begins to conjure up a plan of attack so as to not act immature or nervous. When he finally gets close enough to talk, he begins to ask questions about what religion she is and why she is the way she is. As Amis's cynical style continues within the journal, you have begun to realize the Charles Highway change. He has gone from a mere spec on the scale with his parents, to full on hippie, to a man ready to hit the end of his fledging, and eventful

Carefully plotted

There's raw talent in this book; in some ways first books are the best. I'm thinking of: The Dangling Man, On the Road, Catch 22, Lucky Jim, A Catcher in the Rye. What I like: the coming of age story, the playful writing, and the descriptive bits...and that scene involving recycling of a certain item: that was ahead of its time by at least ten years.

Raw, Rude, and Fun with a Capital "F"

"Twenty may not be the start of maturity" asserts first-person narrator Charles Highway at the bottom of page one as he's about to leave his teens, "but, in all conscience, it's the end of youth." I discovered this book last year as I was about to leave my twenties, and I imagine it would have had a much more powerful impact on me had I read it ten years ago. That's not to say this book doesn't pack a punch for those already come of age. Part of that punch's force, I presume, is in semi-fruitless imagining of how I would have reacted back then.Highway is hilarious in his cynical, pustule-ridden loathsomeness, and many a brooding young American or British intellectual with find aspects of him to identify with. He's blunt, he's crass, but he knows beauty when he sees it. He's also a schemer who manages to have enough sex to warrant several trips to the VD clinic--it's 1973, after all--but not to let that stop him. His pursuit of, attainment of and parting with the lovely Rachel of the title comprises an extraordinary pre-University summertime journey replete with references to famous English poets and sweaty bodily functions. The character he most reminds me of in another book is Philip Roth's Alexander Portnoy.Amis does such an amusing job of drawing together the lofty and the base in this, his first novel, that I look much forward to his more widely-known works. "The Rachel Papers" will not appeal to everyone, but will achieve a special place in the libraries of angst-filled teens and their older selves.

A dazzling display

This is an astonishing novel to be written by someone in their early twenties---the more so when you realise it was first published in 1973, at the height of English hippie-dom's prog-rock flowering. For this is essentially a punk novel written ahead of its time. It tells the story of Charles Highway's run-up to his twentieth birthday, as he falls for, then plans the seduction of, then abandons, the lovely, eponymous, Rachel. 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.
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