Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi and the Movie


*Possible spoilers below*

Intimacy has multiple variations of cover, though the difference is only the color. As far as I know there are red, yellow, orange, and green version. My copy is the red one. I got it for a buck at my fave 2ndhand bookstore in Singapore. I miss that shop badly :(

Intimacy raves about loneliness, dissatisfaction, and complaints. Main character is Jay, a middle-aged sad man, who has a wife and 2 children, but all the way is contemplating to leave them. The book is timed around 24 hours, and there are many flashbacks when he tries to analyze the agonies and joy of his relationship with his wife, his children, and his mistresses (note the plural form). He seems to have one woman at any one time, but has been with multiple women throughout his marriage. Always on guard and unhappy, he goes from one woman to another without feeling a tiny bit of remorse toward his wife.

Perhaps I can only see it from woman’s perspective, but I’d say the guy is just simply pathetic. I don’t think he’s a very reliable narrator as well. He keeps emphasizing how his wife is so cold toward him, but at few occasions, the wife initiates some effort with warmth and intimacy. Only he’s too blinded by his ego and selfishness to see everything else apart from his disdain unhappiness. His kids seem nice and bubbly too, far from being hellish creatures like some kids are.

It’s hard to justify the ending. I can’t believe he finally finds love and contentment. From who? The mistress? Perhaps he does, just for a fraction of time. With his attitude, I don’t think he’d ever be happy in life.


I finished the book about a week ago, but delayed my review, because I’d like to watch the movie first, then review both at the same post. I did acquire the movie, which is loosely based on the book. Hanif Kureishi is also the scriptwriter. But I just watched about 2/3 of it (at 2 separate times) and got bored. In the movie, Nina the mistress becomes a strange woman who occasionally visits Jay’s office (he works alone) to have sex with him. They never talk and he performs quite pathetically. Until one day he decides he should really finds out who the woman is. Of course, talking would probably break the spell or some sort, so he starts following her around. There’s no spoiler for the movie because I don’t know how it ends too.

I got to like the guy even less by watching the movie. When I finished the book, I thought he was sad, but he was at least critical about his situations and could even be philosophical. But now he’s just pathetic. I have flashes of his cum face and his naked butt whenever I try to remember the movie. Not a pretty sight. O yeah, just a note, the movie has many explicit sex scenes. One of few movies which has non simulated sex scenes.

Don’t let me deter you from getting the book though. It was alright. I thought it was dead honest and true (albeit for only a portion of men). I’d give the movie a pass.

Intimacy is my first Hanif Kureishi’s book. I think I would read more of his works.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pages: 118
Publication year: 1998

First line
It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.

Last line
It could only have been love.

Memorable Quotes

“But perhaps happiness- that condition in which there is completion, where one has everything, and music too- is an acquired taste.” ~p31

“… meaning is what you put in, not what you extract.” ~p32

“But why do people who are good at families have to be smug and assume it is the only way to live, as if everybody else is inadequate?” ~p32

“I understand the necessity of blame – the idea that someone could, had they the will, courage or sense of duty, have behaved otherwise.” ~p34

“Wealth wouldn’t be essential, but the intelligence to accumulate it where necessary might be.” ~p49

“You don’t stop loving someone just because you hate them” ~p82

Also reviewed by

Katrina | Andrew

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