Book Review: BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara

Nov 12, 2018

BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara

“Ligget was precisely the sort of person who, if he hadn’t married Emily, would be just the perfect person for Emily to snub.

This book captivated me. From the moment Gloria stepped on to the page, I was hooked. This young and feisty woman is surprisingly progressive for her time: sleeping around, smoking, staying up all hours of the night. She is your classic bad girl whom everyone has their eyes set upon her. Of course, this only ends in tragedy.

I’m a hopeless romantic so there is one scene in the entire book that stuck out the most Gloria and Eddie, two close friends, are on the verge of sleeping together. They are probably the most suited together out of all the possible combinations of Gloria and other men. Then, at that moment, Gloria sees Eddie as just another man who wants to get into her pants. Suddenly, the magic is lost. I find it tragic.

Gloria throws herself at men and declares love for men in a way that I totally do not understand. She says she would marry Ligget but I don’t see the attraction or at least any evidence that Gloria would have any attraction to such a prospect. Does she just want to be comfortable with a somewhat wealthy man even if he’s twice her age? On the other hand, Ligget is so weirdly obsessed with Gloria for what seems like just because she is young and daring and it’s frankly tiring.

Even though I’m complaining, this makes for such a good story. I wanted to know everything. The ending was a bit disappointing but kudos for not making me see it coming until two paragraphs before. It’s tragic.

Also, don’t be fooled by Gloria being ahead of her time. This book is still a product of its time. It’s rife with sexism and blatant racism. I wasn’t sure if this was a modern take on the post-Depression era but the lack of sugarcoating on these things and the authenticity of the characters made me realize that O’Hara is definitely from this time.

I don’t know what it is but American literature from the 30’s/40’s have a very golden-like quality to them. I can feel the hazy smoke in the bars, hear the jazzy swing music, see the dated cars. It’s definitely such a prominent aesthetic that you just inherently know even if those things aren’t all explicitly detailed.

Yeah, I’d say I enjoyed this book.