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American Pastoral Paperback – 5 Mar 1998

3.6 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Mar. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099771810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099771814
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Marvellous... Raging and elegaic" (Guardian)

"A tragedy of classical proportions...a magnificent novel" (The Times)

"Utterly tragic and compelling. It's one of the greatest modern American novels" (Tatler)

"Wonderful, rich...entirely gripping" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A momentous novel" (Observer)

Book Description

Reissued in electric new backlist style for October 2016, American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997

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Top Customer Reviews

By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Seymour 'Swede' Levov has it all. A star athlete in his college days, owner of a successful glove-making factory, married to a former Miss New Jersey, and living in the big country house he always dreamed of, he is the embodiment of the 1950s American Dream. And specifically, the immigrant dream - Swede is third generation Jewish-American, each generation having become a little more successful, a little less Jewish, better educated, more assimilated, more American. And why shouldn't that progression continue with the fourth generation, Swede's daughter Merry? Born to every advantage, cosseted and loved, what causes this girl to become involved with the anti-Vietnam War movement and, aged 16, bomb the village store and, in passing, kill a local doctor? This is the question that torments Swede during all the long years that Merry is on the run.

The story is told by Roth's alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman, who appears in several of his novels. In this one, Zuckerman was at school in Roth's old hunting grounds of Newark with the Swede's younger brother at the time when the Swede was winning glory on the football and baseball fields. To the young Nathan, he was a hero whose sporting skills lifted the morale of the community in the final years of WW2, and who was living proof that success was attainable for anyone from any background in the great meritocracy of the US. It's only after the Swede's death in the present day (late 1990s) that Zuckerman hears the story of Merry and the bombing. So the reader knows from the beginning that the story Zuckerman tells is not in fact 'true', except for the barest of bones, but instead Zuckerman's imagining of it. The struggle to make sense of it all is in fact Zuckerman's rather than the Swede's.
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Format: Paperback
Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for this riveting, quietly horrifying novel that shatters the idyllic illusion of an America that once might have been, but will be no more. American Pastoral is a brilliant commentary on our inability to effectively see beneath the surface of apparent well-being and contentment in others. The first of the "Zuckerman trilogy," (which ends with The Human Stain), American Pastoral recalls and builds on Roth's most accomplished and self-referential fiction of the past.
As the novel opens, Skip Zuckerman, the childless, unattached, first-person narrator of the trilogy has a chance meeting with a boyhood hero at a baseball game. This hero is Swede Levov, an older man who is still, impossibly blonde, blue-eyed and youthful; a legend within his predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Swede is the very embodiment of "America" and all that "being American" stands for. He is, Skip is sure, incapable of living anything but the perfect, and perfectly rewarding, life.
Swede's brother, Jerry, was Skip's best friend, so when Swede asks for a meeting with Skip, Skip is a little puzzled but not all that surprised. Swede, however, doesn't ask anything specific of Skip, but talks of his sons and his memories of Newark before and during World War II. This meeting, though, is pivotal to the novel's central question and its meaning soon becomes crystal clear.
As the novel progresses, Skip attends his high school reunion and, while making note of the various deficiencies shared by the sixtyish men and women in attendance, becomes convinced that no human being ever really knows or understands another. He is depressed by all the conversation about cancer, divorce and the various problems associated with growing older.
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Format: Paperback
American Pastoral is the first and only novel I have read, so far, by this author. At first, attracted initially by the storyline and the award of a Pullitzer Prize, I found it heavy going. I think this was a combination of getting familiar with Roth's style and his attention to detail. However in persevering l was immensely rewarded. This is an epic tale in which the characters are exposed to a huge range of personal triumphs, tragedies and pretty much everything in between. Sucked in, I hoped desperately that the central character's beloved factory, workforce and neighbourhood, his "American Dream", would somehow escape the brutal onslaught of modern economic rationalism, youthful alienation and urban terrorism, but as with those closest to him, these monolithic, heart rendering events brush nurture and nature aside. For all that this is not a book that left me feeling in any way despondent. On the contrary it is packed with every positive human quality imaginable and the belief that whatever may or may not be accomplished the desire to "do the right thing" is paramount. I will certainly read other novels by this author and probably re-visit this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Plenty of people have expressed considered critical reactions to this book. While I could bore you with pages of my own, I'll be merciful. My reasons for joining in are amazement at the fact that this seriously good book could receive so may crappy reviews, and a wish to lift the rating a small step towards its due level. This is one of a great novelist's greatest novels. If you haven't yet read it, do so.
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