J. D. Salinger understood how children can change adults’ experience of the world. Many of his stories prominently feature child characters who reinvigorate their adult counterparts, as is the case in his short story “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor,” about a military man meeting a 13-year-old girl before leaving for World War II.
In Leïla Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny, the birth of a young couple’s second child leaves them feeling trapped and leads them to hire a caregiver—with tragic results. The loss of a child can be transformative in a different way; Jayson Greene’s memoir, Once More We Saw Stars, is about the author’s experience of grieving the sudden death of his young daughter.
Novels by J. M. Coetzee and Caitlin Horrocks each tell a story about a preternaturally gifted boy. In both Coetzee’s The Death of Jesus and Horrocks’s The Vexations, the young main characters’ stubborn self-assurance dismays the people around them.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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What We’re Reading
An unsettling trilogy about a possibly divine boy
“On one [of the book’s many levels], Davíd is not the messiah but simply an exceptionally gifted child, the kind of kid with whom the world in general, and the education system in particular, does not know how to deal.”