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Letting Go

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  806 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Letting Go is Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.

Newly discharged
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Paperback, 630 pages
Published September 2nd 1997 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1962)
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Jews in Literature
151st out of 419 books — 232 voters
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Best Philip Roth Books
22nd out of 37 books — 58 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,465)
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Lobstergirl
Jan 17, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lou Dobbs
Shelves: fiction, own

I can't forgive Roth for what he did to (view spoiler)
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Georg
So far as I can see I am the only one who thinks that this is the best book by Roth. I read it at least four times and I will read it ar least four times more.
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/deudas-y-do...

“Deudas y Dolores” de Philip Roth. El final de un camino es el comienzo de otro.

“Deudas y Dolores” sí que puede ser considerada la primera novela de Philip Roth; al fin y al cabo, “Goodbye Columbus” era una antología de historias cortas, y nos encontramos ya con varios de los temas que continuarán durante toda su obra; lo curioso es que, para ser una novela que escribió en 1962, demuestra ser una obra madura y un buen exponente del gran Roth,
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wigwam
Dec 24, 2011 wigwam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to wigwam by: that one pathetic guy in Operation Shylock
Shelves: roth
12/24 - Very good. It's a personal peeve of mine but I'm docking it one star for how much the annoying children are involved (which is thematic to a point, yes, but i think the point could still be made w/o so much time wasted on those exchanges) - it's much better at the beginning and end because of those tangents but wow what beginnings and endings! the main characters are all so fascinatingly flawed and flailing and beautifully sad, easily the deepest characters I've yet to read in Roth's wor ...more
Brian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Margaret
Apparently I'll enjoy reading anything by Philip Roth, because I liked this and I can't even make the plot sound interesting to myself. It's about a group of graduate students and their awkward and painful relationships. It had the added benefit of making me feel good about myself.
Justin
If you're looking for a book with a gripping plot, this probably isn't the one for you. This isn't built around dramatic events but rather around the complexities of life, its ups and downs, love and loss, and the long process of self-discovery.

That's not to say that things don't happen in Letting Go, because they most certainly do. Death, divorce, abortion, and adoption are just some of the heavy-duty topics in Philip Roth's debut novel. But there is not a single one of those that dictates the
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Stefani
This is too long. It's less dense than say Tolstoy, but still mindlessly repetitive in sections, particularly when we are privy to the lengthy and intense inner dialogue of characters followed by lengthy and intense spoken dialogue followed by door-slamming and other dramatic effect.

Having said that, I think Roth is immensely skilled at revealing the restlessness of a generation that has started to question the relevance of institutions like religion, marriage, etc...Both Libby and Paul are ost
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Daniel
I'm still in the early stages of working my way through Roth's oeuvre, but this one was unique to me for the following reasons:

- (a) it's about youth, but youth through a lens that is only partly tragic [unlike the entirely tragic Indignation or Nemesis] and not entirely sex-obsessed [as distinct from the Professor of Desire, which I haven't finished];

- (b) it's largely set in the Midwest, including Detroit but also especially Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood; there's not a word about Newark a
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Rafa
Gran novela de personajes. Sorprende que, siendo de los '50, pudiera ocurrir ahora en cualquier ciudad de España.
David
There's a reason this book isn't one of Roth's more well-known...it is in severe need of trimming, but the characters themselves are compelling (and, sadly, familiar) enough to keep me interested most of the time. While I think something has been lost in the generational transition (what the author clearly wants the reader to see as transgressive may have been so for his day, but today just elicits a shrug and a "what's the big deal"), the human pain is all too real. I will probably finish this ...more
Greg Olson
Some of the scenes in this book were long - way too long. They continued long after it seemed the author had made his point. I suppose this was Roth's way of driving home the excruciating banality of many relationships and highlighting the uncertainly of post-war America. Still, Roth, who was not yet 30 when he wrote this, proved himself to be an unusually insightful writer with a keen eye for detail, nuance and character.
K.D. Absolutely
Who would have thought that Philip Roth would be one of the known novelists when he wrote this novel when he was 29 years old in the 60's? I read this when I was in college freshman in 1981 without any idea on who Philip Roth was. I liked it! Excellent storytelling skills and the plot was something that we used to see in those American soaps being played in the Philippines in the 80's like Falcon Crest, Dynasty, etc.
Amanda
This is my favorite Roth, be it early and unpolished and full of flaws. Maybe because of all these. I fell into it and couldn't put it down, whereas I keep trying to slog through American Pastoral and get annoyed with the overly self-aware quality of the prose, where I feel more Roth than I do character. These couples are fascinating and flawed and very real.
Brian
At nearly 700 pages, this might be the longest book I’ve ever read. Meandering, inefficient, often riveting storytelling. The continual shifts in perspective were seamless and, along with periodic juicy, down-and-dirty arguments, were the fuel that kept the story/reader moving.

This book could have been subtitled “Bitches be Cray.” I have never read a book with so many infuriating female characters. From the irrational Libby to the passive-aggressive Martha to the sociopathic Angelica Pickles dop
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Reid
Belated: This was really good, and I’d read it again. 600 pages and nary a dull moment. Sense of place was great. Psychologies were perfect.
David
it seems like i've been reading this forever. it's becuase it's really long i guess. and i left it at john's house so i've started other books in it's place.

this is roth's first novel. my favorite of his is the professor of desire and this is just as good. similar themes in which a man in academia in the 50's is struggling with love interests and the expectations of being a jewish man. i'm finding the supporting characters more intresting that than the main as the lives and interests of poeple c
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Michael Eppelheimer
Letting Go. Read May 4 – 18, 2013. Roth's first novel, published in 1962.

Yearning. Indecisiveness. Rootlessness. Responsibility. Listlessness. Guilt.

Recommendation
Fans of Roth or those interested in an unflinching glare onto the American experience of middle-class twenty-somethings in the late 50s, read it.

Summary
There are three quotes in the epigraph, and the last one is an appropriate summation of the story:

It may be that one life is a punishment
For another, as the son's life for the father's.
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Niamh
I mostly enjoyed this because it was set in Chicago and it was fun to read the descriptions of different parts of town. The novel follows two couples, sort of, and the story of one couple was really compelling, but the story of the other couple was just painful to read.

Reading this made me think about misogyny a bit. The female characters all kind of suck, and they suck in very realistic and general ways. As I was reading, I occasionally found myself thinking, "Man, women really suck sometimes.
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Tim Anderson
Lots of plot lines and frustrating, argumentative dialogue. From what I gathered, "Letting Go" is about a guy just barely discernable as a "main character" who gets screwed over by everyone even though all he does is help them. The people in this book cling to each other, even when they have no reason to, even when they kind of hate one another. Most of what's great about "Letting Go" gets drowned out by the book's sheer size and how it just goes on and on, plots racking up, until it finally giv ...more
Robert Palmer
This was Roth' s first full length novel and I am glad I didn't read it when it was first published (1961) otherwise I would never have read any of his of his many great books. I hate to sound negative but most of the characters in this book were unlikeable . All of them have issues that have to be dealt with if they are going to get on with there lives, the many plot lines were as lifeless as the characters and there is no way to explain them ( at least by me)
Trevor
My first experience with Philip Roth, coming on the coattails (coincidentally) of a NY Times article about the treatment of sex between "The Great Male Novelists of the 20th Century" and contemporary male authors. On the scale of "sex-ness," Letting Go must be pretty far down on Roth's bibliography. It was in there, and treated openly and complexly, but not to the nearly obscene level that he has been accused of elsewhere.

Letting Go is a subtle book, to me, and one that it is easy for a throw-ba
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Corey
Let me save you A LOT of time by summing this book up for you:

-100 pages of arduous back story, privileged white characters wallow in their own self pity
-100 pages of unbearable dialogue, where characters argue about said self-pity
-Repeat for 640 pages


I love Roth, and I really wanted to like this novel, but I couldn't. Roth gives us no reason to care about his whine-y characters, who complain for pages and pages and pages and pages. They do not lead very interesting lives, you certainly do not f
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1.1
Let's see here... the plot may be misconstrued as plodding, but it's a plot about young middle-class life in the mid 20th century so there may be less wizards, shootouts, or page-turning gimmicks than some are comfortable with. If you don't have the patience for 600+ pages of nuanced exposition and dialogue then this book is not for you.

The characters are well-drawn and interesting. Their flaws, hopes, and habits are used effectively for conflict and progress. Their interactions are believable,
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Daniel Cunha
An early Philip Roth, Letting Go has none of the great historical events, distinctive characters, buried personal secrets, portraits of the jewish diaspora in America or fantastic reality that drive his other better known books. This is a small story, an uneventful plot, with rather normal and recognizable characters, on the life of middle class man and woman in 50s America coming to grip with a new way of life where all does not shine like the Coca-Cola add. And small though it is, the book imp ...more
Aaron
“Letting Go,” reads a lot like a young writer trying to mimic Philip Roth, which, for the most part, is exactly what it was. To a large extent, this book suffered from the context in which it was read, coming as part of my project to read (or often reread) every Roth novel in order. In the larger context of his career, “Letting Go” does not rank as a career best but on its own terms, it is a very good book, unafraid to allow the author’s stand in to be a dislikable (but believable human) charact ...more
Pierre Fortier
Malgré le fait que j'aime bien lire Roth, j'ai patienté jusqu'à la page 200 avant de cesser la lecture de son premier roman. Personnages fades et gris, problėmes de mariage juif-chrétien, bienvenue au club des perdants. Sans intérêt avec les longueurs qui nous rappellent que la vie est courte, mais par petits bouts elle est longue
Matthew Germenis
If it lacks the bite and intensity that Roth would later perfect, it's because this novel is a foundation for it. It's size is a testament to a young writer figuring out the craft and all its capabilities. It is a good book, a great one that will stay with me for years to come. The word 'Ambition' is thrown around whenever an attempt is somewhat unsuccessful at accomplishing greatness. However, here is ambition that does accomplish something great. While a bit too Jamesian for my taste, Roth cle ...more
cheeseblab
So what is the object of the "letting go" here? Jewish tradition? Apron strings? Inappropriate loves? Yeah, that, and the whole damn thing; it's all about running as hard as you can to get back to Start (which foreshadows the end of Portnoy, I guess). Gabe Wallach is the first of Roth's many protagonists who behave badly while desperately wanting to maintain belief in their own honor.

As was true of Goodbye, Columbus, I actually read this in the first volume of the Library of America edition of R
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maven
It seemed ok at first, but after awhile, it felt like the main character changed quite drastically, without any clear reason why. None of the characters seemed very likeable, and it all just really dragged on too much. Time to "let go" (oh ho!) and move on to a better book!
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
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American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman

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