The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Book Review

Title: The Catcher in the Rye

Author: JD Salinger

Genre / Themes: Modern Classic, Literary Fiction, Coming of Age

Blurb from Goodreads

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield.

Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure.

However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality, and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.

My Review

ReRead in 2017:

I first read ‘Catcher’ about 20 years ago. I didn’t know what it was about; I just knew that it was one of those modern classics that everyone should read. I never knew that it would become my book. The character of Holden Caulfield is one of the most polarising characters out there; you either love or hate him. I was firmly on the side of love. Holden’s words spoke to me, to the lonely kid dealing with a serious illness. He got it. He knew what it felt like to be lost and confused, to be sad, to feel like every situation was life or death… He just got me. And this book became a part of my soul.

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior.

You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.

Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to.

Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you.

It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement.

And it isn’t education.

It’s history.

It’s poetry.”

Now a lot of time has passed. I’m older and hopefully wiser. Would Holden still speak to me? How would I feel about him now as an adult? Looking at him from the other side?

I wanted to read this book so badly but I was scared. Scared of falling out of love with the one boy who understood my teenage soul.

However, a few days ago a dear friend of mine was talking about writing in books. About weaving your life into the book for the next person after you to connect with. And she struck a chord within me. Some people may be appalled at this notion; how could I desecrate a book in such a way?

I like to believe that books have a memory. They not only tell the story within their pages, they also tell the story of those who have held the book; the stories of whose eyes have peered within their soul and whose hearts have been stolen by their words.

So to me, the concept of writing in a book is about leaving my mark and a part of my soul within these pages. The cracked and broken spine tells of a book much beloved rather than the unflawed and unread shiny new paperback. The lovingly creased and folded pages with highlighted passages tells of a personal connection to the novel. What words moved the reader the most.

So what better book to mark with my thoughts and feelings in the margins than my old favourite, The Catcher in the Rye.
The journey would not just be Holden’s story, but mine too.

And how did it go???

Better than I could ever have imagined. Sometimes there are no words to describe how a book makes you feel but I will try…

When I finished the story I had tears in my eyes. I still loved Holden. I love him. I still understand Holden but it is now from a different angle. He still feels like me but I have seen so much more of life since I first read this book that now I feel I understand better than he does… But he will always be the first one who understood me.

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Holden… My heart. My friend. My teenage confidante and comfort. And my all time favourite book.

My Socials

6 thoughts on “The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Book Review

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