A novel by the author of The Buddha of Suburbia and My Beautiful Laundrette which analyzes the agonies and joys of being connected to another person.
Jay, who is leaving his partner and their two sons, reflects on the vicissitudes of his relationship with Susan.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 160 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 18/01/1999
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780571195701
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by edwinbcn
While there are many books about love and romance, there are but few books about the end of a love affair, and even if, not with such intimate detail. Such a book is Intimacy.Jay and Susan were not married, but together since their student days, some 20-odd years, raising two children. For Jay, their relationship is nothing but a drag. There are quarrels, and there is no longer any sexual attraction, probably mutually, as Jay is quite aghast looking at himself in the mirror, viewing his big, hairy belly and the shrimp below it.Jay has been pondering to leave Susan, and move into a friend's place for a while, but is clearly hesitating. Over the course of a day he evaluates his relation with Susan, going over many intimate details.Not being married, walking out on Susan is a damned easy thing to do. Jay's agony is all rather self-indulgent. The story is entirely told from Jay's point of view, but readers will find it easy to sympathize with Susan and the children.
Review by AndrewBlackman
This was a strange book: all the reviews say how honest and uncompromising it is, and yet in the end I didn’t believe it. The basic plot is very simple. A man, Jay, is leaving his long-time partner, Susan, and their two young sons. The book is an extended inner monologue by Jay covering the last night before he leaves.Why didn’t I believe it? For me, the character was too extreme. Plenty of people get bored with their partners and leave them. But things like leaving Susan in the hospital after she’s given birth to his first son, taking the champagne her father has left for her and drinking it with his girlfriend? Ending one section by thinking to himself ‘Cheerio, bitch’? Apparently feeling no guilt at all for abandoning his two young sons, even though he is aware of the horrible effects it will have on them from conversations with his friends Victor (who has also left his wife and kids, one of whom tried to kill himself) and Asif (who is a teacher of many kids who’ve been damaged by their parents)? All this is too much to believe, as are some of Jay’s reported sexual exploits with younger women, which sound more like a middle-aged male writer’s pornographic fantasies than the believable actions of the character Jay. It feels as if Kureishi is straining very hard to make Jay as reprehensible as possible. Clearly he is trying to convey a sense of the isolation and lack of moral compass that many people feel, as well as the sexual frustration and powerlessness that many men feel in a feminist age, particularly those old enough to have been brought up in a more male-dominated world. But I think in trying to do so he goes too far, and makes Jay more of a caricature than a character.What I liked about the book, actually, were the parts that sounded less like fiction and more like an essay on the social development of Britain from the seventies to the nineties. For example he characterises his generation (those who came of age in the seventies) as ‘particularly priveleged and spoilt’, enjoying the freedom won by their elders in the sixties before the ‘cruelties of the eighties.’ He talks of the political convictions of his generation, ‘the last generation to defend communism’, but also of its inability to see the appeal of Thatcherism and therefore to fight it effectively. ‘We were left enervated and confused. Soon we didn’t know what we believed. Some remained on the left; others retreated into sexual politics; some became Thatcherites. We were the kind of people who held the Labour Party back. Still, I never understood the elevation of greed as a political credo. Whey would anyone want to base a political programme on bottomless dissatisfaction and the impossibility of happiness? Perhaps that was its appeal: the promise of luxury that in fact promoted endless work.’I think he really has captured some important ideas here, and in other similar monologues. But between the islands of political and social truth there is a sea of very unbelievable fiction. While it was not a struggle to get through it, I wouldn’t say it was particularly rewarding either.
Review by kale.dyer
I really enjoyed this portrait of a man trying to decide whether to leave his wife or not. I found the book to be an intimate examination of the thought processes that someone in this position may go through. From the certainty at the beginning of the novel to the 2nd thoughts immediately prior to the action I found this a realistic and poetic portrayal of the process of leaving someone,
Review by petterw
I read too many great novels - this is one of them, although it hurts to read it. Nevertheless, it is a book that should be read more than once, I guess, because it is packed with memorable quotes; Kureishi is a master of the English language. The book compares to Saturday by Ian McEwan in that it mirrors the "modern" man, it takes him seriously in all his (our) faults and gives him dignity.
Review by kidzdoc
This was a tough book for me to rate, due to its subject matter. The narrator was a repulsive character, and the topic is supposedly semi-autobiographical; however, the writing is quite good.Jay, like the author, is a London playwright who has decided to leave his partner, who he has never married, and their two young sons, who he loves dearly. However, he is bored in this loveless relationship, and sees no hope that it can be salvaged. He is most happy when he is with his current girlfriend, a young woman who excites and challenges him sexually, though she is not his social or intellectual equal.This short novel, set in London in the early 1990s, describes the mind set of one restless but decent urban professional approaching middle age, who is not ready to settle into a monogamous, steady relationship. I found Jay to be quite superficial, self-absorbed and immature; however, his desires and attitudes remind me of those of a cousin of mine, and couple of former acquaintances, and are spot on with their views. This book may not be for everyone, but it is a well-written, accurate work.