This month Lauren Molyneux curls up with a good book to review modern fiction which features a ‘familar voice’ from a traditional classic
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is considered a modern classic. Finding itself on many an avid reader’s ‘Top 10’ list, since its publication the novel has gained somewhat of a cult following. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is one of the most iconic characters in modern fiction. The honesty behind his narration, the wit of his character and Salinger’s excellent portrayal of a troubled adolescent mind, has set the bar for many coming-of-age novels over the decades.
This month’s Good Read features novels whose main characters seem to channel the spirit of Holden Caulfield, and will seem familiar if you have ever read Salinger’s classic.
God’s Own Country
TOP TIP: God’s Own Country is wonderfully written, brilliantly compelling, humorous and entertaining. A triumph.
God’s Own Country is a phenomenal debut from Keighley-born Ross Raisin. With moments of humour and horror, Raisin explores the complex mind of Sam Marsdyke. Told in first-person narration, the novel tracks the efforts of Sam as he battles with his growing obsession with the girl next door.
With a tough upbringing on a Yorkshire farm and a murky history of sexual assault, Sam Marsdyke has plenty of enemies in the valley. His regular bellyaching about ramblers and ‘towns’ enjoying picnics on his father’s land and turning local farms into second homes is akin to that of Holden’s ‘phonies’. With wicked wit and a particularly dark sense of humour, Sam is a character that is disturbing yet surprisingly easy to sympathise with, and one of the most unforgettable voices in contemporary fiction.
His eye is soon caught by the daughter of the ‘town’ family who move into the farmhouse on the next plot. What starts as a very unlikely friendship between Sam and the girl next door soon develops into something more troubling. Tension rises as the story progresses and new layers to this complex character begin to unfold. The plot develops quickly, and what happens is both predictable yet somehow remains surprising.
TOP TIP: The Evenings is entirely refreshing and totally deserving of its title as a modern classic.
If you’ve ever seen The Graduate you’ll remember how you felt whilst watching it. The same feeling will be reignited when you read this book. The Evenings is a post-war classic, a novel about boredom and youthful malaise, and it’s written beautifully.
Exquisitely encapsulating the essence of an existential crisis, Reve throws readers into the life and mind of 23-year-old Frits. Office worker, daydreamer, nightmare-having Frits feels underwhelmed with where his life has taken him.
Living with his parents, who drive him mad, and feeling like an underachiever next to his peers, he entertains himself by telling inappropriate jokes, meticulously checking the effects of ageing in a variety of expertly-angled mirrors, and occasionally talking to a toy rabbit.
This existential, anxiety-ridden coming-of-age novel is about expectation versus reality, dreams and disappointment. It makes the everyday and mundane beautiful and triumphant.