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Nemesis Hardcover – October 5, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 656 customer reviews

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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.
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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547318359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547318356
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (656 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Grace Dawson on 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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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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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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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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