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Nemesis Paperback – 13 Oct 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (13 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099542269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099542261
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Heart-wrenchingly powerful" (Sunday Times)

"A mesmerically imagined work of realism... A shocking gem... A masterclass in literature and life, that reaches into the pits of the dead" (Guardian)

"What makes Roth such an important novelist is the effortless way he brings together the trivial and the profoundly serious" (Independent)

"A masterful performance" (Spectator)

"Nemesis is an artfully constructed suspenseful novel with a cunning twist" (J.M. Coetzee)

Book Description

The stunning final novel from the great Philip Roth, now reissued in electric new backlist style

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Oct. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is a sweltering summer in Newark, New Jersey, 1944, and Bucky Cantor is a young man working as a playground supervisor. Bucky is a kind, brave and upstanding young man who suffers a great deal of guilt throughout this novel. First, his guilt is based around the fact that his absent father was a thief and a petty criminal. Brought up by his loving grandparents, Bucky wants to make the memory of his adored grandfather proud and live up to the aspirations and success of his girlfriend and her family. Bucky also has a sense of shame about not being able to fight in the war as his friends are, he is a young man with excellent health, but poor eyesight. Still, the children at the playground adore and look up to him, and Bucky does his best to keep them safe and entertained during the hot, long, summer days.

Tragedy strikes in the form of a polio epidemic, for this is before the days of a vaccine or successful treatment, when polio could mean death, permanent disability, or the horror of an iron lung. What is more, the disease was indiscriminate, hitting emotively mostly at young children. Roth evokes that time and those emotions evocatively, in a small community where nobody knows who (or what) causes the deadly disease and how to avoid it spreading unchecked. Are the playgrounds safe and is Bucky in some way to blame? This novel is narrated by one of the young boys who spent that summer observing events, as the story takes us through a tragic time and it's outcome. Although this is a fairly short novel, there is not a word wasted and it is hard not to be affected by this story of a past time when suspicion and fear raged and a disease caused destruction amongst the children of a community.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I usually enjoy Roth's novels but found this one wearisome. The theme is interesting but the protagonist, though a very worthy individual, is terminally dull. For me the book just never got off the ground.
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Format: Hardcover
What a great novel. It tells the story of a polio summer in Newark with economy and flair. I never really understood what a polio epidemic meant: now I do. It's horrifying and tragic, and Roth captures the despair and difficult decision-making so well that you are gripped from the first few pages. He also puts the epidemic in context of the Second World War, creating a clever parallel between those fighting for their country and those left behind with a different struggle. This is by far the best book I've read in 2010.
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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
Again Philip Roth is concerned with illness. The 1944 polio outbreak in his native Newark NJ - and again specifically in the Jewish community - is the subject of this book. A recent novel of his, Everyman, (see my review) was about the afflictions of old age; this one is about an illness most of whose victims are children.

There is panic in the community: vaccines against polio came into use only in 1955; and it appears that in 1944 noone knew exactly what caused it or how it was transmitted - but it was known that it is at its most virulent in the hot season, and there are vivid descriptions in this novel of the sweltering heat that summer. There was also the (correct) suspicion was that dirt was involved.

The central figure in this novel is Bucky Cantor, the popular young sports teacher at the local school, a sturdy, upright, supportive and caring figure, who is deeply affected as pupil after pupil is stricken by the disease. There are many ways in which people react to such a crisis: not only panic, but rage against God's injustice, or looking for scapegoats. Even he is accused by one parent of letting the children become too hot during their games.

His girl friend, who works at a children's summer camp on the cooler and more salubrious coast, urges him to take a job which has just fallen vacant there because the man who had it before had been called up. He agrees, but feels a deserter: he already felt ashamed that his poor eye-sight had prevented him from being accepted by the army, in which his two closest friends were fighting. When he gets to the camp, its setting and its happy children, beautifully described, could not be more different from the fetid city and its anxious youngsters he had left behind. He veers between joy and guilt.
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Format: Hardcover
Many journalists have written off Roth's recent material. Those readers who follow such cues may already have missed the understated wit of 'Indignation'- hopefully they will be prepared to give 'Nemesis' a chance. They should. It's an absolute blinder.

In 'Nemesis', Roth transposes many of the ideas common to his work since 1995's 'Sabbath's Theatre'- creating a compendium of Rothian themes that functions as an outstanding novel in its own right. Playing with the death-fears behind his more recent works, Roth returns to the intersections of history and personal narrative that made his 90s 'American' trilogy so memorable. The results are dazzling.

We're back in the familiar territory of Weequahic, the Jewish suburb of Newark, New Jersey, introduced to a character whose simple belief in human progress and humanist perfection is tested by the strains of a polio epidemic. Bucky Cantor is a fascinating character, superficially bland yet all the more distinctive for it- Roth repeating his fascination with those rudely jolted awake from the American Dream (tm). The text's narrator, Arnold Mesnikoff, only reveals himself in the novel's concluding section- yet his life-narrative is set against Bucky's in a beautifully restrained fashion. The novel's final scene, without giving spoilers, is one of the most elegant and moving passages to be found in all Roth's fiction.

There's a lot in here- World War II, the loss of faith, the innocence of youth- but the prose style is clear, making even the most ambitious of topics merge seamlessly into the novel's structure. A step back from the vitriolic tragedy of 'The Humbling' and towards a more gently elegiac mode (first hinted at in 'Indignation'), 'Nemesis' is wholly unpretentious, deeply intelligent and unabashedly moving. It's Roth's best novel for a decade, and a great starting point for those late to his charms.
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