Book Review: The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger

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Title: The Catcher In The Rye
Author: J. D. Salinger
Publisher: Penguin (1 November 2018)
Genre: Classic Fiction
Price: Rs. 539 on Amazon
Pages: 240

I had heard about this book since decades, but somehow never got to reading it. I knew it was controversial and even banned in many states of the US. When it was allowed in high schools, it was the most censored book. The novel was included on Time Magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. When my husband brought home a hard-cover copy of this book, I decided that it was finally time to read it. With less than 300 pages, I finished this one in a single session.

Holden Caulfield is 17 and studies in a boarding school in Pennsylvania. He's just been expelled from school due to a poor performance and is not expected to return after Christmas break. Holden wants to get home only after his parents have received the letter informing them about his expulsion as he doesn't want to be present when it happens. Owing to this, he's forced to stay in his dorm until the letter reaches his parents. One Saturday, when certain incidents lead to him losing his cool, Holden decides to leave school immediately and heads to New York, where he decides to stay away from home until Wednesday, when the letter arrives. He checks into a hotel and decides to while away time before heading home.

The rest of the story is about what he does when he's trying to stay away from home. He goes drinking, dancing, gets embroiled with a prostitute and her pimp and gets beaten up. Finally wanting some genuine human interaction, he reaches out to his familiar date Sally Hayes, and asks her to runaway with him. She obviously denies and they angrily part ways. Later, he spots a small boy singing "If a body catch a body coming through the rye" which lifts his mood. This is from Robert Burn's poem, Comin' Through The Rye. While the actual poem talks about protecting innocence from corruption and catching people before they fall into lust and greed, Holden misinterprets it as saving children from losing their innocence and decides that he wants to be is the catcher in the rye.

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There is nothing great about this story. It is just about what the boy does in the 3-4 days, while he's staying away from home. His take on life is different and he knows it and is not willing to apologize for the way he is. He adores his siblings, his elder brother DB who writes screenplays in Hollywood and his younger sister Phoebe, who teaches him more about life than anyone else. Holden, though on the verge of being an adult, admires the qualities that children have like innocence, kindness, spontaneity and generosity and struggles to find it in adults around him. This is why he wants to save the children from the world and its vices.

This book is called as a coming of age drama, but, I beg to differ. For me, it was just the story of a boy and his take on life. He sticks to what he believes. He's confused, yes, but weren't we all at 17? He's a rebel, again, who wasn't at 17? This book handles the subject of innocence and the big bad world with a great amount of subtlety and sensitivity. This is exactly why this book must be made a must read in all schools and colleges.


Verdict: Straightforward, true and simple. This book needs to be read by one and all.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

I read this book as part of the #TBRChallenge2020 for prompt 5 - A book written 100 years ago/Classic.

10 comments:

  1. This is one of my favourites. Glad that you enjoyed it too!

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  2. I haven't read this one and now I really want to. Coming of age books are either really interesting or terribly self-obsessed. Looks like this one is worth a read.

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    1. Oh do read this and get the twins to read it as well.

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  3. I didnt read this one but just read a summary. At my age, it sounds like YA and maybe they should read it. I will pass this one.

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  4. Catcher in the Rye was a favourite book of mine in high school (not banned or censored in Canada). That was many moons ago, so I appreciate the refresher. :)

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  5. I've been meaning to read this for a long time now. Will get to reading it soon. Thanks for the review.

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