Thursday, July 28, 2011

For Esme - With Love and Squalor by J D Salinger

I love listening to podcasts while playing with Deacon in the park, especially the ones pertaining to books.  Every once in awhile the presenter or a guest will gush about a story and stop me in my tracks.  That happened the other day while listening to Simon Evans and Hardip Singh Kohli discuss For Esme - With Love and Squalor during an episode of Books and Authors. I just had to stop everything and read it.

It starts off with an American receiving a wedding invitation from overseas.  The narrator then takes the reader back in time several years to England and the American is a soldier preparing to leave for battle in Normandy.  Passing a church he is drawin in by the performance of a choir and immediately fixates on a young girl with a beautiful singing voice.  Afterwards, he stops into a tearoom to escape the rain and before long the same girl arrives with her little brother, Charles (who is quite a character), and their aunt.

Now it is her turn to centre out this lonely soldier and she proceeds to engage him in all sorts of conversation.  She seems intelligent beyond her years in her use of language and opinions but there is no doubt of her innocence.  My heart broke when she spelled out s-l-a-i-n to protect Charles when mentioning the death of their father in North Africa.  The subsequent death of their mother has left the children orphaned.  It's apparent who used to be the owner of the man-sized watch adorning Esme's tiny wrist.

There is an immediate bond between these two characters and you could ponder for an afternoon about why that is.  In the end, this encounter between child and adult, that watch, a little boy's ability to laugh and a young girl's courage to face adversity will leave an imprint on your heart.  This story is poignant and unforgettable and if you haven't already then please read it!

An interesting tidbit, which fans of Lemony Snicket will be aware of, is that a secondary antagonist in A Series of Unfortunate Events is named, Esme Squalor.  References are everything and now I get it.


  1. I read wonderful things about this story in the biography of Salinger that I read a few months ago. I haven't read "For Esme" yet, but I plan to, especially now that I know it's available to purchase. So many of the Salinger short stories are only available from the journals/magazines in which they were originally published. I'm glad you enjoyed it - I hope to get to it soon!

  2. Julie, Thanks for stopping by! Don't wait to buy a copy, check your library...and soon! You'll never forget this little package of perfection once you've read it, I promise.

  3. I've been intrigued by For Esme for ages, as it appears in the New York Times crossword quite frequently!

    K x

  4. Kristina, Wow, she's everywhere! I'll have to tell R as he loves doing crosswords as well.