- 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)
Nemesis Paperback – 13 Oct 2011
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"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)
The stunning final novel from the great Philip Roth, now reissued in electric new backlist styleSee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written, this is a story of remorseless self punishment and assumption of blame; a sad tale of self denial and unreasoning misery.Published 9 months ago by Samanatta
One of Roth's best works. Brilliant, brilliant book. Would recommend to anyone.Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
I enjoyed this book a lot. I found it interesting to think about how crippling life can be for some, especially when dealt heavy blows and how dramatically a person (or... Read morePublished 14 months ago by S. Beresford
Am I missing sonething here? Just finished it and was completely bored throughout. This is the first Roth book I have read and not inspired me to read any more. American drivel..Published 22 months ago by SvenDeBelg
A book that feels very like writing all the way through is not a good book!!!Published 24 months ago by Ciara Deasy