This novel is a snapshot in time recording a turning point in the life of both the author and the publishing industry she feels drawn to.

My Salinger Year

Rakoff recounts how she mystifies her practical and scientific family by taking on a job at a literary agency in New York where the pay doesn’t even really cover her basic costs of living. She also mystifies her friends by leaving her college boyfriend to start a relationship with an older wannabe writer with financial means that match his socialist views of the world.

Rakoff’s boss at the agency barely acknowledges her existence and Rakoff is forced to battle antiquated technology and practices that retain an atmosphere not unlike a museum. The new boyfriend is self absorbed and frugal to the point of being mean.

Despite these obvious issues, Rakoff is determined to continue her life as is, striving to become the interesting person she has always wanted to be — a writer.

Her denial of how unhappy her decisions make her echoes the agency’s denial of the changing world: it thinks the photocopier is a newfangled invention, refuses to buy its employees computers, and won’t sign contracts for its authors that make any mention of digital rights.

The agency’s guiding star is its most famous client, JD Salinger. The agency seems to revolve around pleasing him — he is the mosquito stuck at the centre of its amber time warp. His influence also becomes a defining lens for Joanna to view her life through and ultimately provides the impetus she needs to decide what she really wants.

There’s a certain lyricism to some of the scenes in this book, but mainly the thing I enjoyed about it were the questions it raised about love, life and writing. Yet no answers are forthcoming on any of these issues. The reader has to make up their own mind.

I’m going to give it a 3/5.

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