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Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
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Nine Stories (original 1953; edition 2001)

by J.D. Salinger

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9,08182330 (4.17)2 / 88
Member:facucas1
Title:Nine Stories
Authors:J.D. Salinger
Info:Back Bay Books (2001), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (1953)

  1. 10
    Zen Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) by Peter Harris (hayfa)
    hayfa: If you liked "Teddy" I think you'll like this book. It's poetry by monks and it has all that sort of things that Teddy was talking about.
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English (74)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Both short stories I read share a central theme of a soldier who is more comfortable conversing with a child than any adult.

"A Perfect Day for a Bananafish"
He is a soldier who strikes up a conversation with a young child on a Florida beach. The phone conversation his wife has with her mother early in the story indicates he is suicidal, although the reader doesn't clearly see this until the end. For that reason, it is worth rereading. Clues become clearer with a second read.
Line I liked, "She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing" (p 4).
"For Esme - with Love and Squalor"
He is a soldier who strikes up a conversation with a teenager in a restaurant. She is precocious and intelligent. Wise beyond her years. Through letters with Esme the soldier is able to cope with the squalor of war. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 6, 2016 |
There's something about Salinger's writing that really speaks to me. As was my experience with The Catcher in the Rye, I'll read something and then after taking a step back I'll realize how much of the story really sticks with me, and how much I like his way of writing. This is a short story collection, and definitely my favorite so far (haven't read many at all). I liked every single one, some I liked more than others (especially liked A perfect day for Banana fish and For Esme - with love and squalor), but even the ones I found less enjoyable to read - I ended up liking because of the way they stuck with me. I feel like what makes Salinger's writing so good is how he captures the everyday and mundane, but makes it into such an interest piece, one that really grabs that single moment. Like taking a photograph. If that makes any sense at all. Bottom line, I loved to read this and I'm very much looking forward to reading his other two books as well as collecting them all and eventually rereading them. ( )
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

1) A Perfect Day for Bananafish - 1948
The story opens in an upscale seaside hotel room in Florida. A young woman, Muriel Glass, is preening herself while waiting for the hotel switchboard operator to put a long-distance phone call through to her mother. Self-absorbed and complacent, she is "a girl who for the ringing of a phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually since she reached puberty."
Speaking with her mother, the central topic is Muriel's young husband, Seymour, a World War II combat veteran recently discharged from an Army hospital, where he was presumably evaluated for psychiatric disorders. He has gone down to the beach for the afternoon. The mother-daughter exchange includes a good deal of banter about clothing and fashion, as well as disparaging remarks about the quality of the hotel guests.[7] The mother is disgusted and incensed, as well as possibly frightened for her daughter's safety, by reports about her son-in-law's increasingly bizarre and anti-social behavior – acting "funny" – and she persistently warns Muriel that Seymour "may completely lose control of himself". Muriel dismisses her remarks as hyperbole, regarding her husband's idiosyncrasies as benign and manageable.[8] Neither of the women express concern that Seymour's irrational behavior may indicate that he is suffering emotionally.
The scene switches to the beachfront area reserved for hotel clientele. We meet the four- or five-year-old Sybil Carpenter ("She was wearing…a two piece bathing suit, one piece of which she would not be needing for another nine or ten years.") The little girl's mother, after applying suntan lotion to the child, departs for the hotel lounge to drink martinis.[7] Unsupervised, Sybil seeks out an adult acquaintance, Seymour, who has retreated from the hotel – and his wife – a quarter of a mile away, to lie in solitude on a public beach.
There, the two engage in an intriguing conversation, while Seymour prepares to go for a swim.[8] Sybil selfishly reproaches Seymour for permitting another little girl, the "three and a half" year old Sharon Lipschutz[9] to sit with him while he entertained guests performing on the lounge piano previous nights. Seymour, with mock-seriousness, attempts to placate the spoiled child, but to no avail.
At this impasse, Seymour casually proposes that they "catch a Bananafish" but Sybil coyly insists that Seymour choose between her and Sharon Lipschutz. He gently, yet pointedly, informs her that he observed Sybil abusing a hotel patron's tiny dog and the chastened girl falls silent. Seymour wades into the ocean and, placing the girl on a rubber raft, proceeds to tell her the whimsical tale – "the very tragic life" – of the bananafish: in their gluttony, they gorge themselves on bananas, and swollen too large to escape their feeding holes, die.[10] The child, unfazed by the story, claims that she sees a bananafish – six bananas in its mouth. Seymour affectionately kisses the arch of one of her feet, and returns her to shore, where she departs "without regrets."
Seymour returns to the hotel, where his wife is taking a nap. He retrieves a pistol from his luggage and shoots himself in the right temple.

2) Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut - 1948
The story unfolds at the upscale Wengler home; all the characters who appear in the scene are female. Eloise Wengler is a middle-aged and jaded suburbanite housewife in an unhappy marriage to Lew Wengler. Mary Jane is her former college roommate who works part-time as a secretary. She is divorced. Neither woman graduated from the college they attended together. Ramona is Eloise’s eleven-year-old daughter. Socially inept, withdrawn and bespectacled, she is accompanied everywhere by her imaginary friend, Jimmy Jimmereeno. Grace is the Wenglers' African American maid.
Mary Jane visits Eloise at her home and they spend the afternoon reminiscing about their college years, chain-smoking, and drinking themselves into a stupor. Ramona returns home, and Mary Jane gushes over the girl. Eloise commands her daughter to divulge the particulars of Jimmy Jimmereeno to the guest, and Mary Jane declares the make-believe boy “marvelous.” Ramona retreats outdoors to play.
The women resume their drunken and desultory ramblings. Eloise relates the story of a young soldier, Walt Glass, with whom she fell in love when single. She still clings to Walt's memory (he was killed in a freak accident while serving in the Pacific), and expresses bitter regret that she married Lew. Eloise embarks on a tirade against men, and Lew in particular, who lacks, she feels, the traits most lovable in Walt – “humor” and “intelligence”. She relates an event in which she and Walt were running to catch a bus, and she sprained her ankle. Referring to her ankle in good humor, Walt had said, "Poor Uncle Wiggily…” In divulging the details of Walt’s death, Eloise breaks down, and Mary Jane attempts to comfort her.
Ramona reenters the room and having overheard her mother’s remarks, announces that Jimmy has been run over by a car and killed.
The women continue drinking until they fall asleep in the living room. After dark, Eloise is woken by a phone call from her husband Lew, and after a short, sarcastic exchange, hangs up on him.
Grace, the live-in maid, approaches Eloise and respectfully asks that her spouse, who is visiting Grace, be allowed to stay the night due to the severe weather. Eloise curtly rebuffs her employee and denies the request.
The drunken Eloise goes upstairs to Ramona’s bedroom where the child is sleeping. Her mother, turning on the light, sees the girl lying at the extreme edge of the bed. Eloise realizes that she has assumed this posture to make room for an imaginary friend, "Mickey Mickeranno." Flying into a rage, the exasperated Eloise takes hold of Ramona and drags her to the middle of the bed, and orders her to go to sleep in that position.
As Eloise steps toward the door, she begins to repeat the words “Poor Uncle Wiggily” again and again. Sobbing, she tucks in the frightened girl and leaves the room. Downstairs, she awakens Mary Jane from her alcohol-induced slumber, and weeping, beseeches her dismayed friend to reassure her that as a freshman in college, she had been “a nice girl”.

3) Just Before The War With Eskimos - 1948
This story begins with an argument between high school classmates Ginnie Mannox and Selena Graff, who both attend Miss Basehoar’s school in Manhattan. Ginnie confronts Selena about Selena’s habit of leaving Ginnie to pick up the cab fare after the two play tennis each Saturday. Selena tries to explain to Ginnie that her mother has pneumonia and that Selena would rather bring the money to class later, but Ginnie insists that Selena reimburse her immediately. This dispute takes the two girls to Selena’s apartment, where Selena goes inside to get money from her mother, leaving Ginnie in the living room alone.
Most of the narrative follows Ginnie’s conversation with Franklin, Selena’s irreverent older brother, whom Ginnie meets while Selena is inside. Ginnie appears repulsed by Franklin, who slinks into the room wearing pajamas and a bandage around his finger, which he accidentally cut in the bathroom. During their conversation, Franklin reveals that he once met Ginnie’s sister, Joan, and considers her the “Queen of the goddam snobs.”[4] He also mentions that his unexplained heart troubles prohibited him from entering the Army, and that he has been working in an airplane factory for the past thirty-seven months. Because it is lunch time, Franklin offers Ginnie half of his chicken sandwich, and then goes inside to get ready for his friend Eric’s arrival. Eric and Franklin have plans to see Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, which Eric considers brilliant. While he is gone, Eric arrives and complains to Ginnie at length about his roommate, who is a writer.
When Selena comes back to the living room with the money, Ginnie insists that Selena keep it. Ginnie also says she may come over later that afternoon, despite previously suggesting that she already had plans for that evening. During her walk to a bus stop, Ginnie considers throwing away the chicken sandwich Franklin gave her, but ultimately decides not to, remembering how it once took her three days to throw away a dead Easter chick.

4) The Laughing Man - 1949
An unnamed narrator recounts his experiences as a nine-year-old member of the Comanche Club in New York City in 1928. The leader of the club, “The Chief”, is a young law student at New York University who is described as lacking in physical attractiveness but appears beautiful to the narrator. He is widely respected by his troop for his athletic strength and storytelling ability.
Every day, after the troop has completed its activities, The Chief gathers the boys for the next episode in an ongoing story about the eponymous Laughing Man. In the format of a serial adventure novel, The Chief’s story describes the Laughing Man as the child of missionaries who was kidnapped by bandits in China, who deformed his face by compressing it in a vise; he was obliged to wear a mask, but compensated by being profoundly athletic and possessed of a great Robin Hood-like charm and the ability to speak with animals.
The narrator summarizes the Chief’s ever more fantastic installments of the Laughing Man’s escapades, presenting him as a sort of comic book hero crossing “the Chinese-Paris border” to commit acts of heroic larceny and tweaking his nose at his archenemy “Marcel Dufarge, the internationally famous detective and witty consumptive”.
Eventually, The Chief takes up with a young woman, Mary Hudson, a student at Wellesley College who is described as both very beautiful and something of a tomboy.
As the Chief’s relationship with Mary waxes and wanes, so too do the fortunes of The Laughing Man. One day, the Chief presents an installment where the Laughing Man is taken prisoner by his arch-rival, bound to a tree, and in mortal danger; then he ends the episode on a cliffhanger. Immediately afterward, the Chief brings his troop to a baseball diamond, where Mary Hudson arrives. The Chief and Mary have a conversation out of earshot from the boys, and then both return, together yet distraught.
In the final installment of the story, the Chief kills off the Laughing Man, much to the Comanches’ dismay.

5) Down at the Dinghy - 1949
Told in two distinct segments, the first involves a discussion between two house servants about their employer’s little boy, who has a history of running away. The second segment explores the mother's efforts to reassure her son and help him cope with his fears.[6]
The story opens with the two house servants, Mrs. Snell and Sandra, discussing the homeowner's young son, Lionel. Sandra is very worried that Lionel will tell Boo Boo (Mrs. Tannenbaum), her employer, that Sandra has made some anti-Semitic remarks about Lionel’s Jewish father (“gonna have a nose just like his father” [7]). Boo Boo finds Lionel in a dinghy preparing to cast off, and refuses to allow his mother to join him. Boo Boo pretends to be admiral of the imaginary ship in order to win Lionel over and discover why he is trying to run away. He resists, even going so far as to throw his uncle Seymour's old goggles into the lake.
Lionel tells Boo Boo that Sandra called his father a "big sloppy kike".[8] While he doesn't know what this ethnic slur means, conflating the epithet “kike” with “kite”, he nevertheless grasps its derogatory connotation. Boo Boo, in an effort to reassure the boy and help him cope with the episode, succeeds in providing him insights into her own needs and the love she feels for him. At the end of the story, they race across the beach toward home, and Lionel wins.

6) For Esmé - with Love and Squalor - 1950
The story begins with the narrator needing to respond to a wedding invitation that will take place in England, and which the narrator will not be able to attend, because the date of the wedding conflicts with a planned visit from his wife’s mother. The narrator does not know the groom, but he knows the bride, having met her almost six years years earlier. His response to the invitation is to offer a few written notes regarding the bride. These notes are the story.
The first of the two episodes the narrator relates occurs during a stormy evening in Devon, England, in 1944. A group of enlisted Americans are finishing up training for intelligence operations in the D-Day landings. He takes a solitary stroll into town, and enters a church to listen to a children's choir rehearsal. One of the choir members, a girl of about thirteen, has a presence and deportment that draws his attention. When he departs, he finds that he has been strangely affected by the children's "melodious and unsentimental" singing.
Ducking into a tearoom to escape the rain, the narrator encounters the girl again, this time accompanied by her little brother and their governess. Sensing his loneliness, the girl engages the narrator in conversation. We learn that her name is Esmé, and that she and her brother Charles are orphans – the mother killed in the Blitz, the father killed in North Africa while serving with the British Army. She wears his huge military wristwatch as a remembrance. Esmé is bright, well-mannered and mature for her age, but troubled that she may be a "cold person" and is striving to be more "compassionate".
In the next episode, the scene changes to a military setting, and there is a deliberate shift in the point-of-view; the narrator no longer refers to himself as “I”, but as “Sergeant X”. Allied forces occupy Europe in the weeks following V-E Day. Sergeant X is stationed in Bavaria, and has just returned to his quarters after visiting a field hospital where he has been treated for a nervous breakdown. He still exhibits the symptoms of his mental disorder. "Corporal Z" (surname Clay), a fellow soldier who has served closely with him, casually and callously remarks upon the Sergeant’s physical deterioration. When Clay departs, Sergeant X begins to rifle through a batch of unopened letters and discovers a small package, post-marked from Devon, almost a year before. It contains a letter from Esmé and Charles, and she has enclosed her father’s wristwatch - "a talisman"- and suggests to Sergeant X that he "wear it for the duration of the war". Deeply moved, he immediately begins a recovery from his descent into disillusionment and spiritual vacancy, regaining his "faculties"

7) Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes - 1951
Lee and a girl are in his apartment together. The phone rings and he reaches across her to answer it. It is Arthur, worried about his wife, Joanie, who disappeared from a party. Lee tells him to relax and assures him that she will turn up soon. Arthur is worried about his job too. He is a lawyer and has just lost a case. After he rings off Lee turns to the girl and she tells him he was wonderful and that she feels like a dog. (She is apparently the missing wife.) The phone rings again. It is Arthur to say that his wife has returned. Lee is speechless with amazement and ends this conversation very quickly.

8) De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period - 1952
The events unfold shortly after the death of Smith’s mother in 1939, when he and his stepfather return to Manhattan from Paris, where the family had spent the Great Depression years. As housemates, the “exceptionally unpleasant” Smith and his “live-and-let-live” widower stepfather are incompatible developing an Alphonse and Gaston relationship. Seeking escape, Smith applies for, and is accepted, as an instructor at a Montreal, Quebec correspondence art academy, “Les Amis des Vieux Maîtres” operated by Monsieur I. Yoshoto. Smith’s résumé overstates his artistic credentials and further, he falsely claims to be a descendent of Honoré Daumier and a confidant of Pablo Picasso. He adopts the inflated moniker “Jean de Daumier-Smith”. Smith increasingly internalizes his own contrived persona.
Les Amis des Vieux Maîtres (“Friends of the Old [Art] Masters”) turns out to be the Yoshoto’s tiny apartment, located in Verdun, a rundown section of Montreal. Mr. Yoshoto, his wife and Smith are the only “instructors” at the correspondence art “academy”.
Mr. Yoshoto assigns his new employee the task of reviewing and correcting the work of three correspondence students, two of whose crude and inept artwork dismays Smith. The work of the third student, a nun, Sister Irma, intrigues and delights Smith. In his enthusiasm, he pens an officious and patronizing letter of encouragement to the woman. Smith’s intervention on the sister’s behalf leads to the convent banning further communications with Sister Irma, ending her enrollment at the academy.
This rebuff stuns the young man and deepens his egotistical isolation. He summarily dismisses his four remaining students from the school, disparaging their work. To Sister Irma he writes a letter warning that her artistic talent will never flourish without proper schooling but never sends it.
In this alienated state, Smith experiences a transcendental revelation while looking into a display window of an orthopedic appliances store. In an instant, he grasps the intrinsic beauty of the prosaic objects he beholds. Smith begins to emerge from his disturbed existence. He writes a note in his diary, ceding to Sister Irma the power to pursue her destiny. He declares that "...'Everyone is a nun' (tout le monde est une nonne.)" He reinstates his two pupils, establishing a long term relationship with them.

9) Teddy - 1953
Teddy is Theodore "Teddy" McArdle, a 10-year-old mystic-savant returning home to America with his entertainer-socialite parents and his younger sister. As part of their tour of Great Britain, Teddy has been interviewed as an academic curiosity by professors of religious and philosophical studies - the "Leidekker examining group" - from various European universities in order to test his claims of advanced spiritual enlightenment.
The first scene opens in the McArdle's stateroom. Teddy is standing on his father’s expensive suitcase, peering out of the porthole. Mr. McArdle, apparently hung-over, is attempting to verbally assert control over his son; Mrs. McArdle indulges the boy as a provocative counterpoint to her husband’s bullying: neither adult has any real impact on the child's behavior.
Responding to his parents' outbursts impassively, he contemplates the nature of existence and physical permanence while observing fragments of orange peel that have been discarded overboard. The concepts that the preternatural child ponders are evidently derived from Zen and Vedantic religious philosophy, and suggest that Teddy possesses advanced enlightenment or God-consciousness. When Teddy conveys his spiritual insights to his father and mother, they interpret them merely as the products of his precociousness, eliciting annoyance or indifference from the adults.
Teddy is ordered to retrieve his six-year-old sister, Booper, who has absconded to the sport deck with her father’s expensive camera, which Teddy - indifferent to its material value - has bestowed upon her as a plaything. As he departs, Teddy delivers a short, cryptic caveat to his parents, informing them that they may never see him again outside the realm of memory.
On the Main Deck, Teddy has a brief encounter with one of the ship's female officers, Ensign Mathewson. Forthright and exacting, the boy questions the officer and obtains information about a shipboard word game competition - and disabuses the bemused woman as to her misapprehensions regarding his advanced intellectual development.
Teddy proceeds to the Sport Deck and locates his little sister, Booper, at play with another young passenger. Booper is a domineering and hateful child, contrasting sharply with her older brother's equanimity. Teddy, with firmness, politely exhorts the girl to return with the camera to the cabin and report to their mother. Ignoring his sister’s verbal ripostes, he reminds her to meet him shortly for their swimming lesson at the swimming pool. She submits with bad grace as he departs.
The final scene takes place on the Sun Deck, where Teddy, reclining on one of his family's reserved deckchairs, reviews his recent diary entries. The document has been conscientiously edited and neatly written. It contains reminders to foster better relations with his father; commentary on a letter from a Professor of Literature; a list of vocabulary words to study and notes on his meditation schedule - all matters of self-improvement. While making his daily entry, he writes the following non sequitur: “It will either happen today or February 14, 1958 when I am sixteen. It is ridiculous to mention it even.”
Teddy is interrupted by a passenger named Bob Nicholson, a graduate of an unnamed university, who teaches curriculum and instruction. Nicholson is on a first name basis with the Leidekker group and has listened to a taped interview with Teddy, in which he shows a lurid interest. He peppers Teddy with questions on the boy’s commitment to the precepts of Vedantic reincarnation; Teddy remains composed in the face of the young man’s veiled hostility, and provides him with a brief sketch of this discovery of God, his relationships with his parents and his views on Zen philosophy. The boy offers Nicholson an extended metaphor on the nature of logic that challenges the young man’s rational and orthodox commitment to material reality. Teddy, in explaining his position on death and reincarnation gives a hypothetical example describing a series of events at his upcoming swimming lesson in which a fatality occurs: his own.
Teddy disengages from the interview and hurries to his lesson. Nicholson pursues him through the levels of the ship's decks, and as he begins to descend the stairs to the swimming pool, he hears the scream of "a small, female child" emanating from the enclosed walls of the indoor pool. The story ends on this ambiguous note. ( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
All of these are good, the one with Esme is unforgettable. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
I hated the repetitiveness. I mean I hated the repetitiveness. A few stories were okay, though. But for the most part they were confusing to me. ( )
  jenn88 | Feb 14, 2016 |
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To Dorothy Olding and Gus Lobrano
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There were ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through.
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Life is a gift horse in my opinion.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Non-U.S. editions of J.D. Salinger's short story collection Nine Stories are titled For Esmé - with Love and Squalor, and Other Stories. "For Esmé – with Love and Squalor" is also the title of a single Salinger short story from Nine Stories. Please distinguish between the collection of stories (this LT work) and the separate short story having the same title. Thank you.
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Published as Nine Stories in the U.S., and as For Esmé - with Love and Squalor, and Other Stories in the U.K. and other countries.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316767727, Paperback)

In the J.D. Salinger benchmark "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," Seymour Glass floats his beach mate Sybil on a raft and tells her about these creatures' tragic flaw. Though they seem normal, if one swims into a hole filled with bananas, it will overeat until it's too fat to escape. Meanwhile, Seymour's wife, Muriel, is back at their Florida hotel, assuring her mother not to worry--Seymour hasn't lost control. Mention of a book he sent her from Germany and several references to his psychiatrist lead the reader to believe that World War II has undone him.

The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger's children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances--some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be "The Laughing Man," which starts out as a man's recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief--a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include "a glib timber wolf" and "a lovable dwarf," the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by "the internationally famous detective" Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, "an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite." The masked hero's luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. "A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief's bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone's poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:08 -0400)

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Salinger's classic collection of short stories is now available in trade paperback.

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