Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cambridge; Susanna Kaysen

 Cambridge; Susanna Kaysen
Knopf - 2014
Cambridge, by Susanna Kaysen was a novel which seemed to be somewhat autobiographical. The story began in 1955 and followed a lonely young girl named Susanna from the second to the sixth grade. Her well-off, academia parents were from Cambridge, Massachusetts, but they moved her and her younger sibling around frequently during childhood. In a short period of time Susanna lived in several different countries.

The book began with a chapter called AWAY when Susanna lived in London and traveled to Italy, but longed to be back in Cambridge, MA.

Intro opening....It was probably because I was so often taken away from Cambridge when I was young that I loved it as much as I did.  I fell in love with the it, the way you fall in love with a person, and suffered during the many separations I endured. 

In the summer before our October departure for England, the screen door to the backyard broke and had to be replaced.  The new door had a hydraulic canister that hissed when it opened or closed instead of smacking, thump, thump, the way the old door had.  I didn't like this.  Neither did my cat Pinch.  Cats and children are conservative.  Pinch would use the new door to go out of the house, but she refused to come in through it, and she'd sit by the front door waiting for someone to notice that she'd decided it was time to come home.  After three weeks in England, I felt the same way: Okay, let's go home now.  It's time to go home.  But my parents, looking out their new, hydraulic door to England, didn't notice me, and, like Pinch, I had to sit there hoping and hoping."
Susanna, although intelligent, was miserable in school, she only wanted to do the things that she enjoyed. She was more interested in adults than she was in other children and she often came across as a spoiled, unlikeable child. Despite this, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.  To me it felt liked she lacked the feeling of security that is so important for children.

I enjoyed Susanna's take on the people she met while visiting London, Greece and Italy. On the other hand, I felt the lack of plot and structure was difficult at times, but in the end, I was still happy I read this one. I do think this novel might have worked better as a coming of age story instead of the travelogue narrative that it felt like from time to time.  Not for everyone, but worth a try.

3.5/5 stars
(review copy)


  1. Glad it was worth a try. The lack of plot and structure concerns me though.

  2. Probably not for me. I usually have a problem with 'travel' fiction.

  3. The intro sounds good. Thanks for your review.

  4. Sounds like this one is an easy read and that you shouldn't have too high expectations of it.

  5. I've been curious about this one because I really liked Girl, Interrupted when I was in college. I won't rush out to get this one, but maybe when I'm in the mood.


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