Morality in All Change Please by Danielle West

Yes, it is time, I have finished All Change Please, and honestly it was such a good book I found it hard to stop reading it once I reached the final 100 page stretch. Only being able to read it on my laptop was sometimes a pain, but I struggled through – although I say it was a pain, I was going to read the novel regardless of what form it came in, so I guess it doesn’t matter particularly.

The book focusses around the lives of three women who are all grieving after their friend Laura suddenly passes away, and it follows them through their lives after the funeral and shows how they cope with her death. It was great to read a book that was set in London and so I found it entirely relatable, the crowded tubes, the disgustingly and yet beautifully unreliable weather, millions of tourists and the good old iconic red bus.

Tube disruptions. Again.

Tube disruptions. Again.

What I really liked was the three-way narration. The skipping between Ophelia, Kat and Elise while they all lived their different lives that were all linked through their friendship and their grief. The lives of the women all developed differently at and different speeds and intensities which made the book even harder to stop reading. Once you would reach the end of a section about Ophelia, there would be an indent and you would want to read how Elise had got on at her job interview. Furthermore, the repetition of Laura and her presence in the three lives was very interesting. She appeared at times when they needed a shoulder to cry on most. Someone to tell them to get a grip and man-up. At times when there was the most tension and conflict she appeared.

This leads me on to the morality question that is developed throughout. Each of the friends dealt with Laura’s death differently. Life re-evaluation occurred. Travel. New jobs. Reuniting and reconciling with old friends and family. There were times in the novel when I was really taken back by the issues that face everyone. Death is a guarantee and is unavoidable, but it is taken for granted that it won’t happen to most people until old age finally gives in during a peaceful night.

What is your greatest regret?

Does everything happen for a reason?

Have you settled for mediocrity?

How do you define happiness?

I don’t want to give off the wrong impression. This book has a few pessimistic moments, moments that make you evaluate your life and the path you are travelling down while the characters are doing that too. But there are moments of hilarity, cringiness and the quotidian lives that we all know so well. It is a novel about three women who are coping with the loss of a friend who was such an important part of their lives, that even after she has died, she is still impacting the decisions that they make for the better.

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Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

America. Alienation. Adolescence. These three words, to me, seem to summarise The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger’s only full length novel focuses on the troubles and difficulties of growing up and the desire to belong whilst maintaining ones own identity.

The protagonist Holden Caulfield leaves his school after realising that he is unhappy being surrounded by people he doesn’t like because of their annoying personal habits or their outlook on life. Phonies. Phonies is the go-to word of the narrator. Adults that he meets whilst spending time in New York city drinking, smoking or just generally wandering the cold winter streets are phonies. They are superficial products of the post second world war society. The worst part for Holden is that everyone is unable to realise their phoniness. Even sadder is the fact that Holden doesn’t realise that he is a phony himself. His compulsive need to lie and the speed at which he disregards people because of this highlights the phoniness that is present in the world.

Holden is both alienated and alienates. He is unwilling to grow up and take that final step into the adult world, like a traditional bildungsroman. He also refuses to like various characters in the book because of their artificial qualities. He also alienates himself because relationships confuse him. Opportunities for emotional and physical relationships present themselves to Holden throughout the novel but he inevitably declines because he wants to remain individual and apart from the norm.

The Catcher in the Rye

I think it this that has left The Catcher in the Rye with such a legacy. But also a universality. So many people can relate to Holden as a character. He is just one small person trying to be himself in a world full of phoniness and change. His fascination with the natural history museum shows how isolated and alone Holden both is and likes to be. The creatures frozen in time haven’t changed since he was young and this is one of the only static elements of the novel.

In a world that is rapidly developing, with technological advances and a booming economy, there is no time to build up the intimate relationships that Holden believes should exist. His romantic view of the world is outdated and again he prevents himself from belonging. Sex is prevalent throughout the novel, with his need to lose his virginity and his apparent interest in it. Holden is a product of this changing society. He wants to lose his virginity to someone he respects and loves but is also aroused by people he doesn’t care for and considers stupid.

It is this inability to grasp the world which makes the character of Holden so relatable. Although the reasoning behind his self-alienation and inability to connect with the real world is unique to him, I feel that I can relate to him as a character. The social pressure to belong in a constantly moving, changing, growing world is something which cannot be done without trouble. Everyone has problems. Some people are just better adjusted at coping with them than others.

Phonies