(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Monkey Grip begins randomly one Australian summer in 1974, when Nora, the narrator and protagonist, is relatively happy, living with her five-year-old daughter Gracie in a Melbourne commune and sleeping with Martin, who is more friend than lover. Nora shares the house with three friends: Eve, Georgie, and Clive, a former lover.

Nora’s life changes when she meets Martin’s friend Javo, who is hooked on heroin. Despite his addiction, she falls hopelessly in love with Javo, although she continues to sleep with others. (Nora is famous for her promiscuity.) Javo is rebounding from a broken romance with Jessie, who left him because of his “smack” (heroin) habit. Jessie and Nora are friends, and Jessie does her best to warn Nora of the heartbreak Javo will surely bring her.

Nora gets a job working as an extra on a film about junkies. Javo, meanwhile, drifts in and out of her life, going to Tasmania at one point, then to Southeast Asia with Martin. The two of them are thrown into jail in Bangkok for stealing a pair of sunglasses, if one can believe the story that is told to Nora. Nora has a brief sexual fling with Francis, the director of the film on which she worked as an extra, but she yearns for the return of Javo, even though her life is far less complicated without him. Martin’s brother Julian goes to Bangkok and manages to bail Martin and Javo out of jail.

When the house in which Nora and her friends live is sold, Nora and her daughter Gracie...

(The entire section is 611 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Ableman, Paul. “Left-overs,” in The Spectator. CCXLIV (January 26, 1980), p. 21.

Hanscom, Marion. Review in Library Journal. CVI (July, 1981), pp. 1442-1443.

Kramer, Kathryn. “A Pleasant Discord,” in The New York Times Book Review. XCI (December 7, 1986), p. 79.

The New Yorker. Review. LVII (July 13, 1981), p. 106.

Shrimpton, Nicholas. “Seizing by the Neck,” in New Statesman. XCIX (February 1, 1980), pp. 174-175.

Strawson, Galen. “Junkie Jottings,” in The Times Literary Supplement. January 18, 1980, p. 54.