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The Rachel Papers Paperback – September 29, 1992

3.8 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Amis's vision of adolescence is an unvarnished, terrifying and hilarious one."-- New Yorker

"A truly sexy and funny book...a delight...the best teenage sex novel since Goodbye Columbus." -- New York

"Amis is a born comic novelist, in the tradition that ranges from Dickens to Waugh...He can find laughter in catastrophe and knows that morality shifts sneakily between absolutes and ambiguity...Amis's mercurial style...can rise to Joycean brilliance."

From the Inside Flap

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 cynicism when he finds himself falling in love with her.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (September 29, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679734589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679734581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
"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.
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Format: Paperback
Martin Amis went to Exeter College, Oxford and lived before that with his father in a village in Oxfordshire. Sound familiar, of course it's just like the plot in the book!. Martin Amis' first novel shows hints of true genius. The characterisation of the books sort-of-hero, Charles Highway is fascinating, and he dissects the typical foibles of an adolescent with skill and integrity. Other high points include the amazing vocabulary that the book is written with. The outstanding prose makes me (excuse me) laugh out loud every time I read it and almost makes up for some of the unconvincing aspects of the plot. Autobiographical? Yes. Self-Obsessed? Yes. Extremely funny? Definately. Worth Buying? Without a doubt. Some have said that to start reading Martin Amis, other books like Money or Success would be better. I disagree. The Rachel Papers is a brilliantly funny introduction to the writings of one of the strangest and most talented British Novelists.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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