Review Blog

Jan 20 2009

The curious case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

cover image

HarperCollins, 2008.
(Ages: 10+) Poor Benjamin Button was born an aged man, much to the embarrassment of his parents, living in Baltimore in the 1860's. His father did not know what to do with this stooped, 70 year old with a long straggly beard, hobbling beside him. Passing the slave market he thought he should sell him, but he took him home instead. As father aged, Benjamin became younger, and at a ball in 1880, he saw a woman and fell in love. She accepted his proposal, despite the loud cries from those around him, but she wanted an older wiser man, not realising that Benjamin, looking 50, was really 20. Initially successful, their marriage became strained when Benjamin became more agile and youthful looking as she aged. Tied to a docile wife, he joined the American army and served in the Spanish American War, where he was decorated for bravery. Returning home, he was faced with the sad realisation that his wife no longer cared for him, so he attended university, but as his brain became younger, so did his attention span and his ability to take in new ideas. Eventually he went to school, then kindergarten, and finally was cared for by a nanny.
An unusual short story by one of the world's greatest writers, this tale turns the normal progression of man on its head. As he gets younger, Benjamin experiences the sorts of things younger men experience, but the reader sees it all from a totally different perspective. There are digs at American society along the way, prejudice, social climbing, disparity between old and young, universities, self made millionaires. Fitzgerald quietly mocks some of the accepted institutions and precepts as he looks at youth and age.
This handsomely produced hardcover, designed to intrigue and delight the readers of the 70 odd pages, has been published to coincide with the release of the film.
Fran Knight

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