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This review is taken from PN Review 135, Volume 27 Number 1, September - October 2000.

FAMILY BUSINESS MARTIN AMIS, Experience (Cape) £18.00

Oscar Wilde remarked that we begin by loving our parents and end by judging them. The knowingness of modern youth reverses the process. In his early teens, Martin Amis was the witness of his father's abrupt desertion of the beloved wife, Hilly, whom he had promised his children he would never leave. Kingsley was the victim, so to say (or so he said), of a coup de foudre. At a literary festival in Cheltenham (once symbolic of English stuffiness and a favourite retirement home for The Men Who Ruled India), Amis was struck by passion for Elizabeth Jane Howard. In the words of the kind of romantic formula he despised, 'C'était plus fort que lui'.

Jane - who, just before the consequent wedding, announced herself cutely to Martin as 'your wicked stepmother' - was a siren whose callers included Arthur Koestler, Michael Ayrton, Ken Tynan and several other A-list celebs. She was also a novelist, with a somewhat elevated style, whose work Kingsley had to approve before deciding that they were a perfect match. Hilary - the mother of Martin and his tall brother Philip (two years his senior) and of their sister Sally - decamped to Mallorca, perhaps in the hope that Kingsley would follow. Martin remarks that his father was such a helpless traveller that he would not have known how to leave England, unless Jane - an improbable candidate for the job - bought him a ticket and took him to the airport.

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