Written in a highly addictive confessional style, The Act of Love by Howard Jacobson traces the inner life of London antiquarian bookseller and closet sexual pervert Felix Quinn. In this intense novel, Felix takes the reader to the edge of sexual adventure. This is a strange romp in the mind of a guy who cannot truly find sexual satisfaction unless he sees his wife in the arms of another man.
This consuming obsession means that Felix can barely function, unless he is plotting to present his wife to other unaware suitors. He designs many different sexual scenarios and encounters on the sly. His ‘victims’ are distant cousins on a visit to his fancy Marylebone house in London or business associates. His wife is exasperated by it all and barely tolerates it.
This is an extremely enjoyable and an extreme novel. It has power and depth and sexual potency beyond what’s hinted at on its cover. Felix the narrator of the story lacks dimension and visibility precisely because his imaginings and erotic yearnings are so ever-present and part of the story. In contrast the other characters, the objects of his desire, loom so large in Felix’s imagination that the reader, along with Felix becomes all-consumed by these fantasies as well.
Finally, Felix meets his darkest match in the form of a seductive suitor called Marius. A pompous and precocious young intellectual that he pushes into his wife’s life – like some sort of decorated confection. That they almost have the same name Marius and Marisa is a clue to their interlinked erotic and fantastical destiny. Marius and Marisa are made into beautiful and dangerously seductive set pieces in the warped sexual imagination of the narrator Felix.
After reading this book, through his eyes and lens it’s hard to not also be seduced by these two visionary and equally erotic and dangerous beings, Marius and Marisa who are never given a chance to actually speak for themselves in the book.
Instead the two are mere beautiful set pieces and play things in the game of Felix’s sexual satisfaction. This is an intense, weighty and erotic novel that will consume your attention.