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The Rachel Papers

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  9,216 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Charles Highway is every mother’s worst nightmare.

Precociously intelligent, mercilessly manipulative and highly sexed, Charles devotes the last of his teenage years to bedding girls and evading the half-arsed overtures of his distant parents. That is, until, he meets the aloof, wildly unattainable, Rachel.

As Charles’s twentieth birthday – and the Oxford entrance exams – l
Paperback, 219 pages
Published August 13th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,216 ratings  ·  436 reviews

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Anthony Vacca
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vacca’s Complaint:

I am inconsolably jealous when I consider that Martin Amis published his first book at 24 and had actually done the writing at least a year before, also I am disgusted with how much talent and confidence the bastard already had at my age. Here I am approaching my first quarter of a century and I have no first novel. I have no fame. I’m not deflecting pertinent questions from feminist reviewers by flirting with them. I have accomplished nothing with my life. Nothing!

The Rachel P
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of Martin Amis through the fellationary (I refuse to accept the unreality of this word) anecdotes of his late friend and tireless polemicist Christopher Hitchens. Now Hitch, for those who don’t know, is a man of such intensity that the normal rules for using lugubrious in a sentence (which is to say; don’t) do not apply. So hearing all his praise for Amis sank an image into my psyche, into the binary operations of my most atavistic operating systems, a conceptual depth charge desce ...more
3.5 Often crude and rude but highly entertaining if not easily offended. The main thing I took from this book is Martin Amis has a unique way with words. I also learnt that teenage boys are extremely gross. He does well to capture the selfishness and insecurities of adolescence, if it wasn’t as funny as it was this book would have been so cringeworthy.
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Almost Entranced

Charles Highway is a 19 year old student who has two obsessions with entry. One is to pass his Oxford entrance exams and the other is to sleep with Rachel Noyes before he [Charles] turns 20 in three weeks.

This isn't a quest to lose his virginity (that has already happened with Gloria or someone before her) or to have sex with an Older Woman (Rachel is only a month older than Charles).

It's more about an over-sexed, literary white English male arbitrarily setting out to enter the
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teenagers, post teenagers, people experiencing a mid-life crisis who need to be persuaded out of it
This is a bit of a curate's egg of a reading experience. I began finding Charles Highway's escapades mildly amusing, took a detour into down and out hatred of vacuous Rachel and odious Charles and ended up in a state of turbulent hilarity. This is basically a book about being a teenage boy - obsessed with phlegm, spunk and pulling girls. At times Highway is intensly dislikeable - like wading through a teenage boy's room in fact - but he is undeniably fascinating. However, the prize for most disl ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Philip Roth is correct and life is misunderstanding people, then I remain awed by the riddle which is Martin Amis. His first novel The Rachel Papers injects self-awareness into satire, leaking a fecund foam which changes everything about how we regard the way we live now. The insecurity of adolescence is illustrated by our protagonist, one Charles Highway, who diagrams said angst and provides cross-references from the literary canon. One can imagine the reader or protagonsit saying bugger Hol ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hell yeah.

"I took Rachel to a French film, La Rupture, as an oblique way of indicating to her how good in bed I was going to turn out to be." 109

"University challenge: the contestants seemed to be alarmingly well informed but, on the other hand, reassuringly hideous." 134
Rob Walter
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've given up trying to defend Martin Amis books. I tend to agree with every criticism that people offer, but to me they've missed the point. He's so wonderful to read because he has more technical mastery than any writer of the last fifty years that I've read. He can make his prose, and consequently his characters, do absolutely anything he likes.

As this is his first novel the pyrotechnics are somewhat muted, making it probably one of his more accessible novels. He has focused a bit more on cha
Jan 21, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read other Martin Amis novels. I have read analyses about Martin Amis, I have read interviews of Martin Amis and I have read raving reviews of OTHER novels of Martin Amis and I believe everybody who praises his talent. Unfortunately I should have also believed the people who praise his talent and who warned me not to choose The Rachel Papers as an introduction to his work, on the grounds that – surprisingly enough - it sucks.

I didn't and it was a big mistake. I chose The Rachel
Matthew Appleton
Amis' first novel. And, as many have said before, it's hard not to compare it to his father's first novel 'Lucky Jim'. In some ways, they are the same, and in many ways not. On a side note, I felt as if, having read Martin Amis' memoir earlier this year, the father figure in this novel resembled Kingsley in several ways. I wonder if they ever discussed that together. Even without that, it's a very autobiographical book. I think Amis has even admitted that it is. Charles Highway (the protagonist, ...more
Read: April 2017

I decided to read The Rachel Papers after reading the amazing Time's Arrow last year and I cannot believe these two books were written by the same author. I wrote a review of Time's Arrow at the time which showed how much I loved it and I guess I expected this book to be of a similar calibre but it was nowhere near as good.

The protagonist here is Charles, who is trying too hard to be a 'lovable rogue' sort of character, but really he comes across as pretentious and arrogant. For
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
This is Amis’ first novel, written when he was in his early twenties. I greatly enjoyed his middle period but gave up on him after reading a couple of his more recent novels – Yellow Dog and House of Meetings. Then I came across this in the garden shed and realised I’d never read it…

Martin Amis has a talent for creating obnoxious characters and the narrator of The Rachel Papers, Charles Highway, certainly fits this bill. Except, unlike in his middle period when he somehow managed, almost like a
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So I had a really difficult time finishing this book. Several times I wanted to quit reading it, but I honestly hate stopping a book when I'm half way through. I think my big mistake with this one was seeing the terribly made 80's film adaptation prior to reading the book. Man, was that one terrible film.
Second mistake, was that I couldn't stand the main character, Charles Highway, rather I LOATHED him. What a horribly self-centered, obnoxious, womanizing, vile protagonist.
And, yeah, I get that
Jul 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should this be renamed? I'm thinking Portrait of the Artist as a Young Horny Man? Charles Highway is an absolute little shit and yet he is endearing and I enjoyed my time with him (even when it was gross). Everything he does, he does for experience and for an opportunity to write about it. At least this is what he tells himself. I would guess, too, that everything he does, he does in hopes of feeling real emotion, thereby breaks the boundaries of his class and family.
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was about time, I decided, that I paid some attention to the work of Martin Amis. After all he’s a significant figure in literature; named one the fifty greatest British writers since 1945, son of the late Kingsley Amis, friend of the late Christopher Hitchens and writer of lauded novels and non-fiction. Just as well I’d bought The Rachel Papers a few years ago when I was spending money on novels in an irresponsible fashion. In any case, it’s always good to be prepared, and fortunately Amis d ...more
Charles Highway is a Rick Ocasek-looking, luggie horking, father-hating-for-unspecified-reasons, asthmatic on the cusp of his 20th birthday, which he is taking, like most things, very seriously. He spends the hour leading up to midnight of the big day, which he refers to as the end of his youth, revisiting his relationship with Rachel. This is easy, as Charles Highway has kept detailed notes on their time together, all while simultaneously creating a personal guidebook called "Conquests and Tech ...more
Jul 03, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Punk by: Sab
Fiction. Self-indulgent, myopic, teenage fiction. I like Amis, but not his narrator. Charles Highway is a spoiled 19-year-old who considers himself an intellectual and tends towards something he identifies as "self-infatuation" but makes no move to resist. I couldn't handle him and nearly threw this book down twice for every page I read.
Troy Parfitt
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 20
Dec 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I'm without historical context for why this short novel should sit somewhere in my heart. I hear it was funny at some point. then maybe too cynical at another.

It felt to me, at times, like reading a bright young whipper snapper's weblog. Nothing at all wrong with that, just not compelling in any way.

amis' writing is always sharp and loaded with extra meanings and his bluntness about how men think about some things must have been a bit of a slap in the face to the post hippie world of the early
Jan 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
For a book about a teenager supposedly coming of age, written nigh on 40 years ago and read by me rapidly approaching my 30th birthday; this was possibly not the best combination to get the most from the controversial debut novel from famed misogynist Martin Amis. The only thing worse could possibly have been if I were female I suppose.

A quite enjoyable read but not as depraved or as entertaining as I had been previously led to believe. Charles Highway is a quite wonderful character, the type th
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
Painfully realistic at points; so much so, that I envision Martin Amis as Charles Highway.

But not young Martin Amis. The present-day Martin Amis.

Which makes it kind of a Lolita experience; a middle-aged guy trying to seduce a young lady before his __th/__nd/__rd birthday.

The text is kind enough to remind me, without elegant variation, that Charles is 19, and tomorrow he'll be 20. When this happens, the prop handlers slop a mop-top on 55-year-old Martin, but it doesn't stay on long and usually
DNF at page 131. I'm bored out of my mind and Charlie's an arrogant, misogynist dickhead. I gather that's supposed to be the point but I'm not foreseeing any character growth so no, can't read this anymore.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good little tale but I couldn’t shake the idea that he was trying to borrow his father’s shoes here.

Worth a read though!
Alex Ankarr
Sep 27, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no
Depressing, mean-spirited, not even very well-written. Nepotism, it's a wonderful thing!
Cailin Deery
Jul 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Rachel Papers is hilarious, while shamelessly trashy and egomaniacal. After I got over my misgivings, it was hugely entertaining. I'd never read anything by Amis and impulsively picked this up to read in Oxford & London (the setting switches back and forth between the two cities) with little other rationalization. The Rachel Papers is Amis' first book, penned at 24, and I like what another reviewer said - it's like Catcher in the Rye if Holden Caulfied got laid. Kind of. Only Charles Highway ...more
Justin Evans
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Is this great literature? No. But I did really like it. It should sit next to Rabbit, Run and Portnoy's Complaint, but with the benefit of being much, much better written than the first, and more interesting than the second. Also, compared to 'Dead Babies,' which was my first M. Amis read, this is much less datedly 'shocking.' Reading DB was a bit like listening to a teenager with green-dyed hair talking about how much she's subverting Them. Kind of cute, but also more than a bit tragic. I didn' ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
I really enjoyed this at the start. Charles was unsuccessful with girls and didn't seem to be the person anyone would fall in love with ... and I laughed with him (not at him) on the DLR to work. There was even a chance (a small chance, I'm sure) that he wasn't going to get in to Oxford. Or at least that we weren't to be there to witness his success.

But then everyone started falling in love with him and he got in to Oxford ... and I went right off him.

"In her gardening clothes she resembl
Sabra Embury
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a first novel (published in 1973) about a lascivious 19-going-on-20 year-old guy named Charles Highway, obsessed in the pursuit of a girl named Rachel, Amis' linguistic spins are not only unique but timelessly charming:
My family lives in Oxford [...] Furthermore, I dislike the town. Sorry: too many butterfly trendies, upper-class cunts, regional yobs with faces like gravy dinners. And the streets are so affectedly narrow. [p.6]
Take a look at the scaly witches round your local shopping cen
Amy Laurens
I'm both too old and too female to really connect with this book but it's a pretty amazing job for a 24 year old (which is the age Amis was when this published). Such a witty writing style.

I wonder if this was the start of the "debut comic coming-of-age novel by and about bookish, awkward English boys with anti-hero protagonists that are thinly veiled versions of the authors themselves" trend?

Amis on Oxford:

"I dislike the town. Sorry: too many butterfly trendies, upper-class cunts, regional yo
Tatiana De Almeida
1.5 stars. I've never used the dictionary feature on my kindle so many times. In fact I rarely use it but with this book, I had to about 3 times per page. I understand that was the point of the book. The protagonist is a pretentious little shit. But really it was a chore to read. And also boring. Nothing happened this entire book. Nothing at all.
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Martin Amis is an English novelist, essayist, and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.

The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be reco

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