My favourite books 34: American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Jonathan Cape 1997; this edition Vintage 1998

I arrived late at Great American Novels, and hit gold with American Pastoral.  I’ve read a fair amount of Roth since, but this was my first, and it’s quite simply one of the finest novels I’ve ever read.  It tells the story of Seymour Lvov, alias “The Swede”, the man who has everything – and deservedly so.  But he doesn’t deserve what happens when his daughter turns against him in the mid-1960s.  The old certainties are tossed aside, prosperous old Newark becomes a hollow shell, and the horrors of Vietnam and racial/generational unrest pull the Swede’s world apart.

“We are against everything that is good and decent in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mothers’ nightmares.”

You can read more here: American Pastoral is still on the Vintage list.

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