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“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 . . .”

So begins this novel-from-life by the best-selling author of Girl, Interrupted, an exploration of memory and nostalgia set in the 1950s among the academics and artists of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

London, Florence, Athens: Susanna, the precocious narrator of Cambridge, would rather be home than in any of these places. Uprooted from the streets around Harvard Square, she feels lost and excluded in all the locations to which her father’s career takes the family. She comes home with relief—but soon enough wonders if outsiderness may be her permanent condition.

Written with a sharp eye for the pretensions—and charms—of the intellectual classes, Cambridge captures the mores of an era now past, the ordinary lives of extraordinary people in a singular part of America, and the delights, fears, and longings of childhood.

This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jan 20, 2014 – Susanna, a “cranky and difficult” young girl with complicated parental relations, recalls her formative years, traveling from English shores to Grecian temples, in this fictional memoir, which, as the title implies, focuses on the period she and her academic parents lived in Cambridge, Mass. Despite the somewhat predictable nature of Susanna’s feelings (“They’d be sorry when I froze to death two blocks away, a pathetic little creature with only my bicycle for a friend”) and the lengthy digressions on topics like piano lessons, this raw, biting autobiographical novel from the author of Girl, Interrupted frequently lights up to the point of incandescence with subtle descriptions and astute, witty anecdotes. The depiction of the courtship between Susanna’s piano teacher and her Swedish nanny, Frederika, in which the narrator’s mother and a few other key characters play strong supporting roles, is a literary tour-de-force, neatly displaying Kaysen’s unique talent for creating an engaging ensemble cast that comes uniquely alive under adolescent eyes: “Mascara, a swipe of red lipstick, and a dab of rouge could transform Frederika into a monster in two minutes. It was terrifying.” Susanna may not be the most likeable young girl, and she certainly spends a good deal of time wallowing in self-pity (“I could keep growing and thinking and reading in secret, in my dark, sorry-for-myself basement of failure and neglect, like a little rat”), but for Kaysen and her legion of fans, the focus on adolescence is a theme that works. And why not? Sometimes, parental neglect or some other sad reality is just a fact of life, and the effects are, unfortunately, affectingly real.

Customer Reviews


I preordered this book and couldn't wait for it to show up in iBooks. I kept hoping it would get better but three quarters into it I just sat back and plodded through. There really was no plot or point to the book. The characters were sort of interesting and the book was well written just lacking a point to the story.

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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Mar 18, 2014
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book was designed for an iOS device and some features may not work as intended with a mouse or trackpad. To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later.

Customer Ratings