Customer Review

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written and important book., April 28, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: American Pastoral (Hardcover)
"American Pastoral" is a remarkable novel which canbe read and enjoyed on a variety of "levels."^M
Stylistically, Philip Roth's prose glides effortlessly between passages of sheer lyricism and Hemmingway-like reality. The characters of Swede Levov, his wife, Dawn, and their daughter Merry, --as well as other characters in the novel---are sharply etched and observed. The dialogue each of the characters speak is right on target and delineates their character without the author imposing his own "voice" upon the words they speak.^M
However, Roth's novel achieves the level of "art" in terms of social commentary and his view that America has somehow lost its soul and sense of direction. A decent, hardworking family--a family that has done its absolute best to raise their daughter to become the kind of person who reflects the best values our country represents---is totally destroyed when their daughter, Merry, becomes a terrorist and eventually lapses into madness. Roth's vision of the world is an extremely depressing if not a totally pessimistic one. Nothing that happens by way of historical or social events seems to make any sense. All is simply "chaos." What happens, simply "happens" and there is nothing one can do to stop the descent into a hell where nothing makes sense---where events totally overwhelm decent parents and their family's attempts to control them. ALL parents and families are not, of course, as Philip Roth describes them. But the trend away from traditional "values" and values which, apart from religion per se or political "correctness" have heretofore given our nation a sense of purpose and unity, are swiftly disappearing--as any, daily reading of contemporary headlines indicate.^M
There are a few minor "flaws" in Roth's novel. The scene in which Merry's friend, Rita Cohen, tries to seduce Swede Levov after visiting his factory, is a bit overdone and the crassness of the sexual encounter and the language spoken by Rita is out of keeping with the rest of the dialogue spoken by the character in the novel. One feels that the author has momentarily "lost control" of the scene and situation and sunk to a level that is out of proportion to the action which is taking place. ^M
The ending of the novel is a bit anti-climactic and does not leave the reader with a satisfying sense of plot resolution and fulfillment. But these are minor flaws indeed!^M ^M
"American Pastoral" is a deeply moving, often humorous, but most of all extremely disturbing novel. The author's descriptions of buildings, neighborhoods, and the effects which the riots of the sixties had on Newark and elsewhere throughout the country are graphically described. He captures the sights, sounds, and meanings of social upheaval and the people involved in the political events that take place as only a journalist and literary artist can.^M ^M
One may question the blackness of Roth's vision of an American gone astray---but one cannot question the humanity of his doomed family or the author's sense of compassion for the characters he has created and described. Never preachy or dogmatic, Philip Roth simply lets his characters speak as their destructive, nihilistic natures dictate.^M
The result is a novel that is, by turns, both immensely sad, often humorous, ferociously angry, but always intelligently written and conceived. It deserves to be widely read.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 9, 2012 12:55:28 PM PDT
This book is nothing but hard to read ,it does not flow at all but i paid 15 bucks for it and i will finish,and that really is the only reason
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