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Nemesis [Kindle Edition]

Philip Roth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (480 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2011

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor’s dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground—and on the everyday realities he faces—Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.

Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children’s summer camp high in the Poconos—whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"—Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.

Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth’s late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Roth continues his string of small, anti–Horatio Alger novels (The Humbling; etc.) with this underwhelming account of Bucky Cantor, the young playground director of the Chancellor Avenue playground in 1944 Newark. When a polio outbreak ravages the kids at the playground, Bucky, a hero to the boys, becomes spooked and gives in to the wishes of his fiancée, who wants him to take a job at the Pocono summer camp where she works. But this being a Roth novel, Bucky can't hide from his fate. Fast-forward to 1971, when Arnie Mesnikoff, the subtle narrator and one of the boys from Chancellor, runs into Bucky, now a shambles, and hears the rest of his story of piercing if needless guilt, bad luck, and poor decisions. Unfortunately, Bucky's too simple a character to drive the novel, and the traits that make him a good playground director--not very bright, quite polite, beloved, straight thinking--make him a lackluster protagonist. For Roth, it's surprisingly timid.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The fourth in the great and undiminished Roth’s recent cycle of short novels follows Everyman (2006), Indignation (2008), and The Humbug (2009), and as exceptional as those novels are, this latest in the series far exceeds its predecessors in both emotion and intellect. In general terms, the novel is a staggering visit to a time and place when a monumental health crisis dominated the way people led their day-to-day lives. Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s (a common setting for this author) experienced, as the war in Europe was looking better for the Allies, a scare as deadly as warfare. The city has been hit by an epidemic of polio. Of course, at that time, how the disease spread and its cure were unknown. The city is in a panic, with residents so suspicious of other individuals and ethnic groups that emotions quickly escalate into hostility and even rage. Our hero, and he proves truly heroic, is Bucky Canter, playground director in the Jewish neighborhood of Newark. As the summer progresses, Bucky sees more and more of his teenage charges succumb to the disease. When an opportunity presents itself to leave the city for work in a Catskills summer camp, Bucky is torn between personal safety and personal duty. What happens is heartbreaking, but the joy of having met Bucky redeems any residual sadness. --Brad Hooper

Product Details

  • File Size: 367 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042JSMNW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,496 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 142 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle version missing a page September 22, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I hate leaving a review like this because it has nothing to do with the quality of writing, which I find compelling and evocative. The Kindle edition is missing page 261 (which is the beginning of the last chapter in a section and therefore almost the worst possible page to miss). I looked all over Amazon's site and could not find a means to report this so here it is, for all to see.

Buyer beware of the missing "page"!
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165 of 180 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
[NOTE added 09/07/2013:] - Because of a coding error on Amazon's part, Amazon has merged the customer reviews of Jo Nesbo's detective novel, "Nemesis", with the customer reviews of Philip Roth's "Nemesis." This affects both books' product pages and it is confusing to potential readers of each book. Amazon is aware of the snafu but hasn't yet corrected the problem. The review below relates to Philip Roth's "Nemesis".]

One thing the prospective reader may want to know is that Philip Roth's "Nemesis" is an old-fashioned novel. The book has the glow of a twilit, though painful, reminiscence. It is set in the Jewish Weequahic section of Newark during the war year of 1944. Roth imagines the community suffering through a devastating polio epidemic that cruelly maims and kills its youngest members. The protagonist is Bucky Cantor, a young man, a stalwart common man, whose decision whether to remain at or abandon his post as summer playground director will have fateful consequences.

Very early in his career Roth sent to Saul Bellow a draft of a short story he was trying to get published, asking for comments and advice. Bellow replied: "My reaction to your story was on the positive side of the scale, strongly. But mixed, too. I liked the straightness of it, the plainness." A half century later, Roth's new novel respects Bellow's preference. Direct, straight and plain, "Nemesis" unfolds in a manner you may not immediately associate with Roth. It is as if, having chosen to set his tale in the mid-twentieth century, Roth decided to set aside the signature style and quirks he's perfected in the last few decades, and, instead, hark back to the American literature of that earlier period, embracing its feel and direction.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty European Police Series Continues January 26, 2009
Format:Hardcover
In the tradition of the great European crime novels like "The Laughing Policeman", "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, Nesbo continues with his Harry Hole novels in this terrific new entry.

Hole, struggling with his alcoholism as well as his new love relationship and the death of his partner, finds himself caught up in trying to solve a murderous bank robbery while trying to convince his superiors that his partner's death is - contrary to their belief - still unsolved and that he should be allowed to pursue an investigation into it.

This is a compelling entry in the series, with rich characterizations and impeccable plotting.

The only thing that readers should be aware of is that the novels of the series published in English thus far have been translated and published out of sequence; this is actually the second book of the series, though it's come out in English third, and the plot line about his partner's murder was resolved in the third book - which was actually the first one published in English (The Devil's Star). Did you follow that?

If so, dig in and enjoy.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Boiled Crime Fiction - Served Cold January 13, 2009
Format:Hardcover
If you're a fan of complex police drama, intelligenty written and cleverly crafted, then the talented Norwegian author Jo Nesbo's crime fiction should find a place on your bookshelf. "Nemesis" is the third English translation of Nesbo's tales of Oslo police inspector Harry Hole, chronologically fitting in between the two previous US releases, "The Redbreast" and "The Devil's Star" - both excellent and well worth finding and reading.

"Nemesis" starts with Hole painstakingly reviewing the surveillance video of an Oslo bank robbery that escalates to murder at the hand of the coldly proficient perp, an obvious professional who leaves nothing to chance, his face concealed with a baklava, his voice unprintable, no fingerprints, no fibers, few clues of any kind to crack the case. But from Jo Nesbo's pen, a mere bank robbery, even if seemingly unsolvable, is pedestrian. So to compensate, the author spins multiple and apparently disconnected story lines into hapless Harry's investigation and life, resulting in a near epic tale of crime that, while a bit confusing at times, is exactly the kind of convoluted crime mystery that will keep you glued to the pages, scratching your head, and by the end marveling through an expected series of whiplashing twists and Holmes-like deductive reasoning.

So back to those parallel threads. With Harry's beloved Rackel and son Olav off to Moscow to settle an ugly child custody case, Harry reluctantly succumbs to an almost-innocent dinner invitation of Anna, an ex-lover. The next morning, Harry awakes in what is apparently an alcohol-induced blackout with no memory of events of the previous twelve hours. This becomes a rather inconvenient issue when Anna is found dead in her apartment the next morning.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Good reading .
Published 1 day ago by john d hart
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Another fast read.
Published 1 day ago by Jack S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome series
The Harry Hole series is exceptional. Jo Nesbo is an amazing writer.
Published 4 days ago by kathleen johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this series and can't wait to read more
As usual, Jo Nesbo has the reader moving from suspect to suspect, until the dramatic end. Love this series and can't wait to read more. Read more
Published 7 days ago by tess
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow the Gypsies
This Harry Hole mystery, Nemesis by Jo Nesbø is the fourth book in this series. It is a complex story with a number of elements which could be related or not, and this is left... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Nancy Brisson
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, promise achieved
In his previous work, Nesbo had been honing his craft. In this one he winds together a true mystery, not of events but of the human heart, exploring the many whys that distinguish... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Jeff
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Just fair.
Published 17 days ago by Allen Selz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I think it is one of the best Harry Hole books - quite complicated, but a rewarding read.
Published 19 days ago by J. Antoni Rafalski
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Breathtaking!
Published 19 days ago by A. De Wit
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Hole Rocks!
Harry Hole rocks. This novel does Nesbo's usual fine job of creating interesting, strong characters.

The plot (or really, plots), are well drawn and intriguing. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Mountainhombre9
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More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

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Topic From this Discussion
French Fries in 1944? No air conditioners?
Air conditioners existed in the early 1940s, but were not common, and were considered expensive. Salinger is portraying people of a higher social status, I think.

As for French fries, they have been in the US since at least 1804, when Thomas Jefferson served them at the White House. McDonald's... Read More
Nov 20, 2010 by Amazon Customer |  See all 2 posts
Hmm, thematic departure?
I dunno. I read Roth because I like his over-the-top characters and the drama with which they screw themselves up despite certain talents or intelligence that they all seem to possess. Where are the clever Portnoyisms, the self-involvement of the Zuckerman character for instance, and the raw... Read More
Oct 6, 2010 by Scarlett |  See all 2 posts
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