Book Review: The Graduate

The Graduate by Charles Webb.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

The Graduate is set in the 1960s, and introduces us to Benjamin Braddock just after he has returned home to his parents’ house in California following his graduation from a small college in the east of the United States. His parents are throwing a party to celebrate his success, but Benjamin does not want to attend.

We follow him as he takes the summer off and becomes increasingly troubled while trying to find himself. We are soon introduced to Mrs Robinson, and their complex relationship begins. With each scene, we see Benjamin become ever more mixed up, disillusioned, and strange. Matters become even more complicated when Elaine, Mrs Robinson’s daughter, returns from college.

The novella is written in tight prose, with little description, the story being mainly told through dialogue which is delivered in a similarly terse manner. This makes it jarring and awkward, but it comes across as highly realistic, as it reflects Benjamin’s own nature. The writing style reminds me of Ernest Hemingway’s in his short story, Hills Like White Elephants.

Some scenes are quite sexually charged and erotic, despite being almost devoid of description. They are classy, and work precisely because the reader’s imagination is left to fill in the gaps.

If I were to nit-pick, I would say ‘What?’ is over-used in the dialogue, as if the characters can’t hear each other properly. I’m not sure why this would be, as two people are often alone in a quiet room together. Perhaps they were mumbling, and Webb chose not to explicitly state that using description.

I would recommend The Graduate. It’s different to anything I have read recently, and was a real departure from the books I usually read that are heavy on description and scene-setting. It’s a perfect companion to a short business trip, and would be perfect to read while enjoying a drink in a hotel bar, as Benjamin himself does many times .

View all my reviews.

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