Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cambridge, by Susanna Kaysen. Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Cambridge’ is the home of young Susanna, daughter of an economics professor and a pianist who no longer performs. The book is a first person POV by Susanna as she relates her life from second grade to sixth. The author has a keen memory; while told by adult Susanna, she’s picked up on the way kids perceive things marvelously. She lays it out there flatly, just as the child saw and heard it, with no adult’s explanation of what might really have been going on. This is the best part of the book, the part that will make many readers remember how they felt and saw things when they were that age.

Cambridge is home, but Susanna spends an awful lot of time away from it; a sabbatical year in England, time in Italy, a long summer in Greece, all take her away. Life, she feels, would be better in Cambridge, but once she’s there, it’s not very satisfying. She doesn’t fit in anywhere. She has a younger sister, known to us on as ‘the baby’. Her father seems to have little if anything to do with her upbringing (not unusual in the 1950 setting) while her mother ignores her except to criticize her or to tell her to do something. This latter she does by pointing at an object or person, expecting Susanna to wordlessly deal with whatever it is mother pointing at. Susanna is never mistreated and has no physical needs unmet, she is emotionally neglected by her parents. She has to look beyond them for nurturing.

There is not much of a plot to the book; young girl grows up, meets challenges, is disappointed by life while disappointing her mother. Susanna is not particularly likeable but she’s not unlikable, either. She’s contrary and bored with most of her peers. This struck a chord with me. I can remember feeling like she does; her feelings about her first period pretty much summed up how I reacted to that same circumstance.

It’s not a great book, but it’s a good book and really held my interest. 

This book was provided to me by the Amazon Vine program in return for an unbiased review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through it and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. 

No comments:

Post a Comment