I've been having a bad run of luck with books. This one I picked up while on holiday. The local second-hand bookshop was full of self-help guides or survival manuals (you can guess what sort of locals lived there) so it was slim pickin's. I chose Franny and Zooey as it's a literary classic, so thought it would be a safer bet. I should have known that I would not like it, as it is by J.D. Salinger - the author of Catcher in the Rye, another classic that I loathed. And I essentially disliked this book for the same reason that I disliked that - I hated the primary character. While reading 'Catcher' I wanted to throttle Holden Caulfield for being a smug, arrogant, pretentious know-it-all. Zooey is just as obnoxious.
Franny and Zooey is set in New York in the late 1950s. It follows the siblings of the Glass family, who are all considered geniuses and as children were stars on a general knowledge radio quiz show. All of the 'children' (now in their 20s) are high-strung, analytical, neurotic and have trouble socialising (no doubt in this day-and-age they would be labelled as suffering from aspergers). The first quarter of the book is written from the perspective of Franny, the only sister of the family, in the lead-up to her nervous breakdown. The rest of the book is written from the perspective of Zooey, her older brother, as they both arrive back in Manhatten to stay with their parents in the family home. Throughout the course of the book we discover that two of their older brothers have died. One during WWII, and the other more recently from suicide. The last third of the book is essentially a debate between Franny and Zooey over the meaning of life and religion.
As the book is full of trendy slang, it has not dated well, and as I mentioned previously, the character of Zooey is not particularly likable. I did admire how the author manages to sustain a quarter of the book being set in a bathroom, but overall the book was not to my taste and I would not recommend it.