MY SECRET HISTORY by Paul Theroux

MY SECRET HISTORY

By

KIRKUS REVIEW

Like in the 19th-century pornographic classic My Secret Life, the overt emphasis in Theroux's new, admittedly semiautobiographical, novel is on sex. But where the anonymous Victorian rake served his lust straight up, Theroux uses liaison and coupling mostly as chaser to a watery blend of his more Rabelaisian fiction (Saint Jack. The Mosquito Coast, etc.) and ironic travelogues (The Great Railway Bazaar, etc.). Like Theroux, protagonist Andrew Parent grows up in Medford, Mass.; like Theroux, he closes the story as a successful middle-aged novelist and travel writer. In between, he carries on a series of affairs that complement his ever-greater understanding of the world, beginning with his teen-age romance with half-Jewish Tina Spector, whose entry into his hermetic Catholic world is mirrored by the appearance of Father Furry, a straight-talking, smoking, alcoholic priest who, for Parent, makes the sacred accessible by rendering it human. Plenty of farcical moments temper the emotion-drenched landscape--which, after Fr. Furty's abrupt death and Parent's sexual initiation, leaps to college days. These are grayer times, marked by an abortion and a sad, platonic affair with a wealthy, alcoholic middle-aged woman. Leap again to Africa, where Parent begins to write, gets the clap after bedding too many native girls, and meets his wife-to-be, Jenny, an English student. Leap again to Siberia, where Parent/Theroux wraps up research on what in our world is The Great Railway Bazaar; then return to England, where he learns of his wife's infidelity, precipitating pure farce as he concocts an adolescent revenge on the marital interloper. Years later, though, he's unfaithful himself, with a sexy American student in India--but still loves Jenny, with whom he "shared the same ghost." As always with Theroux, swiftly told--and with some stunning psychological revelations, and some riotous comedy, too; but, finally, it all adds up to more of a personal exorcism than a formed fiction, a slide-show with a few breathtaking shots scattered amongst many more that may well fascinate only the author.

Pub Date: June 9th, 1989
ISBN: 399-13424-7
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:




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