First published in serial form in USA in 1945, this edition published by Penguin Books in 1994
Challenges - Every Month is a Holiday challenge,Support Your Library Challenge and Young Adult challenge
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap., but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Holden Caulfield is a teenage boy about to be flunked from a private school for a third time and on the brink of a complete mental breakdown. The book follows his life over a three day period, from when he walks out of his school until he finally goes home. He basically goes on a real bender, spending money like it is going out of fashion and try to have sex with any girl who will have him, only to find that he isn't that bothered by sex really. He spends a lot of time getting drunk and doing things that a teenage might do, before he realises that he might actually need some help.
I am not sounding very sympathetic at all, am I? I am really sorry, especially under the circumstances, I really don't want to speak ill of the dead and I know this book is a real classic, and that millions of people have probably read it and loved it and lived their life by it, but personally I didn't enjoy it.
I didn't like the voice of the main character for a start. I found Holden to be obnoxious, rude, hormonal and a liar with a very limited vocabulary. Throughout the book, I don't think I encountered one chapter where he didn't say the word 'goddam', and by the end of the book I found myself saying it to my family! I didn't warm to him until very near the end of the book, when I then felt perhaps I should reach out and help. I found that my maternal instinct wasn't showing a signal on this book.
I think if I had read this as a teenager, I would have been much more sympathetic to Holden's feelings. I would have been in a position to relate to the way he felt, so I am blaming myself for being too old to understand him anymore and that is the reason why I don't appreciate this classic.
Even though Holden came from a wealthy family, no love and affection was ever showed to him. He was still grieving over the death of his brother and I felt that perhaps his parents had not noticed his grief and had assumed that they were the only ones in mourning. His behaviour was definitely a cry for help, which you gather by the end of the book, that finally someone had listened to his voice. He ends up having a breakdown, and I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps, his parents had just spent some time with him, he might have been able to move on without being committed. Did he really have a nervous breakdown, or was it easier for his parents to put him there out of the way, because he wasn't acting normally. It was quite common in those days to have people committed if they didn't comply with the normal behaviour of society. What do you think?
I understand that the main character is believed to be suffering a nervous breakdown and for that I feel sympathy for him, it is just unfortunate that I didn't like him. I don't want people to think I would be callous and flippant if I was in the company of a person heading for a breakdown, because I wouldn't, I just wish I could have warmed more to Holden and been able to ignore his flippant attitude. He comes across as being really spoilt, he has everything that money could buy, except the attention of his parents.
This is one of those books that you think you should read; I know that is how I felt. It is a classic and one that many schools use as a reading text; in that arena I do think it is a suitable read as it shows the anxieties of being a teenager and it allows other teenagers to air their views and feelings and see that they are not alone with their worries about alienation and rebellion and the tentative steps towards their first sexual encounter. I can fully sympathise with the teenagers of today and wouldn't want to be back there for anything. I really wish that I had read this as a teenager, rather than a grown up, mother of two with a mortgage and bigger things to worry about than whether or not I will die a virgin?
After reading other reviews about this book, I just discovered that is is one of the most censored books in the world as well as one of the most taught books in the world. I am thinking that we fall as a divided world over our opinion of this book.
I also found this fascinating piece of information about the book over at Sides Reviews
John Lennon's assassin, Mark Chapman, asked the former Beatle to sign a copy of this book earlier in the morning of the day that he murdered Lennon. Police found the book in his possession upon apprehending the psychologically disturbed Chapman.
This book seems to have a trail of controversy following it around.
I apologise to everyone who loves this book, as I don't want to step on anyone's toes and upset them; all I can say is this book wasn't for me. I also apologise for my bad timing on this review following the recent death of J.D. Salinger. I vow to find at least one of his books that I will like, to make me feel better about this review.
If you loved it, then please feel free to try and change my opinion on this book. You can even moan at my distaste - I can almost feel you all throwing pillows at my head in disgust. Again, I am sorry, but it just wasn't for me.