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American Pastoralby Philip Roth
Synopses & Reviews
With this beautifully crafted and majestically sad novel, Philip Roth delivers an unalloyed masterpiece, a book that is at once a portrait of a determinedly ordinary man made extraordinary by the catastrophic intrusion of history and an elegy for the American dream of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss.
Roth's protagonist is Swede Levov. A star athlete at his Newark high school, he comes of age in the booming postwar years, when a grandson of immigrants could marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit a thriving glove factory, and buy a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock.
But one day in 1968, Swede's luck fails him. For on that day his adored daughter, Merry, a loving child who has turned into a sullen, fanatical teenager, plants a bomb at Old Rimrock's post office — a bomb that kills a stranger and hurls Swede out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk.
Tenderly evoking the vanished utopia of the 1940s and '50s and gazing fearlessly into the abyss of the ensuing decades, American Pastoral is a masterpiece in a tradition as ancient as Sophocles and as current as today's headlines. It is fueled by rage and sorrow, great compassion for its characters, and a narrative pulse that is wholly irresistible.
Seymour Levov, a devoted family man and inheritor of his father's factory, comes of age in thriving post-war America. His daughter Merry is the apple of his eye until America begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s, and Merry grows up to be a terrorist bent on destroying her father's paradise.
As the American century draws to an uneasy close, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all our century's promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss. Roth's protagonist is Swede Levov, a legendary athlete at his Newark high school, who grows up in the booming postwar years to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father's glove factory, and move into a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him.
For Swede's adored daughter, Merry, has grown from a loving, quick-witted girl into a sullen, fanatical teenager—a teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. And overnight Swede is wrenched out of the longer-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth's masterpiece.
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