Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Monkey Grip examines indulgence and obsession, as the narcissistic heroine bounces aimlessly from one job to another and from one lover to another, searching for love and companionship and a sense of purpose and identity. Nora, however, is incapable of making clear distinctions between love and simple animal lust; she describes herself as addicted to love, but her banality prevents her from being the romantic heroine of her own imagination.

The novel is an often wretched chronicle of wasted lives and broken promises. One Australian critic aptly described it as a “necromance,” and that term appropriately catches the tone of the novel. It is difficult to consider Monkey Grip as a love story since the characters are apparently not fully capable of love, though Nora does show some encouraging signs of selflessness in her hopeless attachment to Javo.

When Nora breaks with Javo midway through the novel, she thinks about getting an “immediate replacement,” which leads her to speculate: “Smack habit, love habit—what’s the difference?” The difference is that she cannot entirely forget about Javo, that she cares for him in a way that he cannot care for her, and that may indicate something akin to love. Even so, this is hardly a typical romance.

Other themes are obviously important: liberated feminism (ironically twisted, since behavior does not mate with “theory”), friendship (and betrayal), and drug...

(The entire section is 598 words.)