THE ACT OF LOVE by Howard Jacobson
Kirkus Star


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A novel of sexual obsession and a little bit of guilt (but not much), from the London-based author of Kalooki Nights (2007), long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Felix Quinn is obsessed with becoming a cuckold, and he knows just the guy who can make his fantasy come true. At a funeral for a respected professor, Quinn sees Marius, who once had an affair with Elspeth, the professor’s wife, and whose hyperactive libido led him to seduce two young women that very afternoon. Quinn’s fascination with Marius leads him to construct situations to bring his wife, Marisa, in contact with Marius, and to encourage the two of them to get it on. Quinn sees this sharing as the ultimate act of love and self-sacrifice because “no man truly loves a woman…who does not know her to be lying in the arms of someone else.” Quinn eventually rearranges his schedule so that he’s absent from his house three times a week between 4 and 7 p.m. in order to allow Marius to fulfill his desires with Marisa, though in due course he winds up staying in the house every so often during their trysts. Quinn stays true to Marisa in his own fashion, at one point indulging in some kinky S&M that leaves him hating his partner because she’s not Marisa. Quinn gets sexual satisfaction from his wife’s verbal elaboration on her time with her lover, and Quinn’s questions give rise to eagerly lapped-up prurient revelations. Toward the end Marisa suddenly drops out of both Quinn’s and Marius’s lives as she deals with a malignant tumor. Finally, the possibility is raised that Marisa may have made up her experience with Marius simply to satisfy her husband’s craving.

A robust novel—preposterous, disturbing and dazzlingly written.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9423-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2009


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