The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis is another book that I probably would have never picked up in a bookstore when left to my own devices. The story centers around Charles Highway- a British teen who is on the brink of turning twenty. Although I could focus on the style and the fact that I am not a fan of a diary-esque type of story there are other things that I feel are more important to focus on with this story.
There are moments in this book where Charles Highway shows a great deal of wisdom about the world. Some of these ‘wise’ remarks are hidden within snide teenage tirades, but there is a point to them nonetheless. One such bit of dialogue even caused me to dog ear the page so that I may find it again and use it here. In a conversation about how things have changed and how views have changed the character Charles states that “you’re not allowed to mind anymore, and so you end up denying your instincts again” (Amis 130). It is a very short quote, but it does speak to me about many of things that are occurring society now. People are allowed to have and voice their own opinions and to disagree! This type of thing has been going on since people first formed thoughts. That does not make anyone bad or evil- they just think differently and that is something that is very hard for people to accept. From the words of a snotty twenty-year-old- there is a lesson to be learned. The lesson that sometimes to teach someone- a person must be willing to first listen and then see what is the best avenue to use for teaching.
The high point aside- most of the book was a dribble of teenage shenanigans that left me wondering why this is a book that a person should read in their twenties’? Is it because the main character was about to turn twenty? Is it because he was a character who thought rather highly of himself and also realized that he was being a bit of a coward at the same time? Possibly. Honestly- I was not impressed enough to see why this warranted being on the list at all.
Out of the few books I have read in this list, this book has left me with a great deal of dissatisfaction. It is not for lack of style. It is more for lack of content. Personally- I can only read so much about boozing and drugs without any sort of plot to explain why this is happening (besides the fact that this was teenage experimentation). The end of the book left me feeling like I had read about a boy who was trying to fake being a man and thought that at age twenty, everything would fall into place. That all of it would make sense and then in a rather anti-climactic ending- nothing really worked out. He was still dissatisfied with his life and had been cruel to the Rachel that is alluded to in the title. However, he felt no remorse for this. He merely decided this was how it should be and that was all.
I could go on about my bad feelings towards this book- but I do not want to ruin it for anyone else who might wish to give it a chance. If you are to read this book- I suggest an open mind. Maybe you will find more worth in it than I did.
So my overall rating for The Rachel Papers is 2 of 5. The book caught my attention the further I read, but it was not a book that made me wish for more or made me want to find another book by Martin Amis. Again- I was disappointed in a great deal of the content. I wish there had been more of a plot and that there was some sort of real resolution to many of Charles’ issues.
Have you read The Rachel Papers? Did you have different thoughts about it? If so- feel free to comment below.
Want the full list of the books to be read during this project? Take a look here.