This classic book tells the story of a weekend in the life of disaffected post-war teenager, Holden Caulfield. Told in the first person, Holden describes how having been expelled from his 4th school, he decided to leave early and go to New York, where he spends some time before going to visit his younger sister Phoebe.
The book is fairly light on plot – not a huge deal happens, but that is not a criticism. The pleasure in reading comes from delving into Holden’s character, and his disillusionment with the world and most people in it. He believes that most people are “phonies” (the ultimate insult), and he doesn’t seem to feel that he really belongs anywhere.
Holden was a much more sympathetic character than I expected him to be. Rather than being cruel and cynical, as I had expected initially, the portrayal of his character shows him to be an innocent in many ways, clearly struggling with isolation and loneliness. Clearly he has the ability to care for people (in particular he seems very fold of his siblings, especially his younger brother Allie, who died fairly recently before the story starts, and Phoebe). At one point he also reveals his desire to become a protector of children and reveals himself to be a caring young man who just needs to find something worth caring for.
It is clear from the outset that the main character is now held in a hospital of some sort, from which he tells the events in the book, in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style. The character is brought to life by some brilliant writing, which really reads as though it has been written by a confused sixteen year old boy.
I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘readable’ the book was – I had expected it to be drier, but I found myself turning the pages really quickly, because I did come to care about Holden Caulfield. The other characters in the book were harder to know, with the exception of Phoebe. This is perhaps because we only see them from Holden’s point of view, and he doesn’t think much of most people he meets.
Overall, this is a book I am glad I finally got around to reading. It’s also a very quick story, and well worth the few hours it took to read it.