“Franny and Zooey” — J. D. Salinger — Book Review

Written by Karina Dănilă

“Franny and Zooey” is a book written by the American author Jerome David Salinger, which consists of the short story “Franny” and the novella “Zooey”. They were published in 1955, respectively in 1957.

“Franny” tells the story of Franny Glass, who is Zooey’s sister and an undergraduate at a small liberal arts college. “Zooey” is set shortly after “Franny” in the Glass family’s apartment located in New York City’s Upper East Side. The American family and the ideas of religion and spirituality are the main topics of the story. Through the experiences of the main characters, the dynamics of their large family are revealed.

The book starts with Franny being picked up from the train station by her boyfriend, Lane. They order dinner at a restaurant and Franny, bored with Lane talking only about his academic frustrations, questions the importance of college education and the worth of his friends. She doesn’t eat anything and when she returns from the bathroom where she cries, she finally tells Lane that the book she’s been carrying with her is about saying the Jesus Prayer. He isn’t interested in the story and cares more about not being late to a party and a football game. Franny faints, he tends to her and when she wakes up he leaves her alone praying without ceasing.

Zooey takes a bath while reading a letter about their eldest sibling Seymour’s suicide, Bessie, their mother, enters the bathroom and voices her concerns about Franny, who finds herself in a state of emotional collapse, and all her children that used to be so “sweet and loving”. When Zooey finished shaving his beard, he finally talks to Franny, at Bessie’s persistent demands to do so.

The writing level is C2. The author included beautiful detailed descriptions which make you feel as though you were taking part in the action. The complex and mysterious characters make the reader want to dwell more into their universe and find out more about them.

“Franny and Zooey” explores subjects and sensations that wouldn’t seem interesting in other circumstances, but Salinger makes even the simplest and most mundane actions, such as throwing a razor blade in the waste basket, seem intricate and out of the ordinary. Therefore, I recommend this book to those who seek to read a unique story with unusual characters, which will certainly leave you with a feeling of contentment, a little more knowledge and understanding about the human behaviour, but also making you question many aspects of every day actions, reactions and interactions among people.

Here are two of my favourites, from the many intriguing and thought-provoking quotes in the book:

  • Franny: “An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection and on his own term, not anyone else’s.”
  • Franny: “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”