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You may recognise the name of Hanif Kureishi without quite realising who he is. Everyone has been raving about him for years, since books like ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’, which won a Whitbread Prize. I was intrigued by his work after his name kept on being mentioned. ‘Intimacy’ is the first of his books that I have read. Novels like Bridget Jone’s Diary have been coming to the forefront of popular books, detailing the life of a, supposedly, average woman, humorously depicting her hang-ups, let downs and the irony of just being her. ‘Intimacy’ shows the less portrayed life of a middle-aged man whose life bores him, whose wife bores and irritates him and who must escape from it all. The twenty-four hours narrated by this man show his mental and physical preparation for leaving his wife and his two small sons. I would compare this a little with Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ because of the detailed account of his life and its relevance to this one day of preparation. He goes through thoughts, ideas, never quite letting the reader know whether or not he is actually going to make the move - whether he is serious, or whether he just fantasises about change. Different from Catcher in the Rye is the language the narrator uses. It is far from colloquial - don’ts are turned into do nots, can’ts to cannots, and so on - making the character sound a little dead pan and unreal. Yet he swears like any other person, divulges the nitty gritty of secret sexual relationships, and appears to be feeling the same as all the other men in the world who leave their wives and children through boredom or need for change. The relationship built up between the reader and the man is not particularly friendly. He may be telling you all his most personal thoughts, he may be sharing this exclusive and difficult experience with you, but he also seems to make you dislike him. I found him cold and u
nfeeling. He refers to sex a lot, and reveals the affairs he has had while being in the relationship with the mother of his children. He seems less orientated by emotional attachments, and more by sexual ones. I found it quite difficult to empathise with his ideas and feelings, although at times you could see that he had no choice but to leave. He compares his life to that of his friends, one of whom has an abnormally wonderful family life, the other, almost his mentor, who has already left his family and whom the narrator will be staying with. These two men add quite an interesting aspect to the book as they reveal more and more about the narrator, and his desperation to leave, and his apathy towards family relationships. The final outcome is surprising, while being no surprise at all, and, in my opinion, continues to show how unfeeling the narrator is. The overall book depressed me slightly because of the way that this man treated people he loved, and the fact that it seems to me to be a reflection of the way a lot of men might feel within a family situation. It also revealed to me a little more about divorce, and the way people are individuals and need to get on with their lives instead of constantly worry about others. It is certainly an interesting insight, and one which I would not usually consider reading. Although the way it is written seems a little stilted, inhuman perhaps, I found that I got used to it and enjoyed it in the end.
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