Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When She Was Good” as Want to Read:
When She Was Good
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When She Was Good

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  1,330 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
In this funny and chilling novel, the setting is a small town in the 1940s Midwest, and the subject is the heart of a wounded and ferociously moralistic young woman, one of those implacable American moralists whose "goodness" is a terrible disease.

When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been try
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 31st 1995 by Vintage (first published 1967)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When She Was Good, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When She Was Good

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Skorofido Skorofido
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ζέστη, υγρασία και Φίλιπ Ροθ, όχι ο καλύτερος συνδυασμός. Βέβαια, οι ροθικές αναγνώσεις πότε δεν είναι αυτό που λέμε «ευχάριστες». Το βάζει βαθιά το νυστέρι ο Ροθ, ως συνήθως, παρότι είναι εμφανές πως πρόκειται για πρώιμο έργο του.
Στα θετικά, η έξοχη, σχεδόν μανιασμένη κορύφωση του δράματος. Στ' αρνητικά, οι αμφιβολίες μου για το κατά πόσον ο συγγραφέας πετυχαίνει στη σκιαγράφηση του χαρακτήρα της ηρωίδας και οι υποψίες μου ότι υφέρπει ο διαβόητος μισογυνισμός του (με ή χωρίς εισαγωγικά).
Apr 16, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
When She Was Good is an earlier Philip Roth novel that tells the story of a young woman who attempts to escape the entrapments of a troubled small town upbringing. Lucy Nelson's twenty two years of life have been comprised of an alcoholic father, a weak and dependent mother, and her own unplanned pregnancy by a man she claims to despise. Her sanity is tested throughout the numerous trials and hardships that life has dealt her. Whether Lucy can move past these debilitating events and find a happi ...more
May 31, 2012 Barbara rated it liked it

Lucy Nelson had a difficult childhood. Along with her timid, submissive mother and her alcoholic, n’er do well father, Lucy lived with her mom’s parents. To make things worse, grandpa enabled the dad's bad behavior, continually urging the family to give the wife-hitting hubby "second chances." Finally, fed up and angry, Lucy had her father arrested and then - some time later - locked him out of the house and sent him on his way.

Through it all Lucy dreamed of going to college and making somethin
Lori Summers
There’s an old metaphor about frogs and boiling water. The saying goes that if you toss a frog into boiling water, it’ll jump right back out, but if you put a frog into cold water and gradually heat it up, the frog will let itself be boiled alive because it doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. Well, I am that frog, and this book was the water.

In a post about a week ago I said that this book wasn’t particularly compelling and that I was just getting through it to make it to Portn
Jun 27, 2008 Jim rated it it was ok
Man, I hate to give a Philip Roth book such a low score, but this time it would be unthinkable not to. Granted, this is early work and granted, after this he went on to write absolute masterpieces, but why did he even bother to write this inane drivel? Why did he write about such a hateful woman, a character he obviously despises, a woman with whom the reader cannot (ABSOLUTELY CANNOT!) sympathize at the end? Lucy seriously goes from being a normal, headstrong girl in small-town Illinois to a ra ...more
Πρώτη μου επαφή με τον Ροθ και στο πρώτο μέρος με είχε κερδίσει. Ενδιαφέρουσα υπόθεση, έντονοι χαρακτήρες. Κάπου στα μισά όμως του βιβλίου άρχισα και κουραζόμουν. Τα ίδια και τα ίδια και ξανά αναμασάμε τα ίδια. Αλλά ήθελα να δω πώς θα εξελιχθεί η ιστορία. Και σιγά σιγά, μέσα από απίστευτη φλυαρία και επαναλήψεις επί επαναλήψεων, έρχεται αυτό το τέλος και σιχτιρίζεις τις 400τόσες σελίδες που διάβασες. Νομίζω απλά πως το παρατράβηξε. Και η κάθαρση δεν ήρθε ποτέ.
Oct 14, 2011 Pavel rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
"There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
And when she was good,
She was very, very good
But when she was bad she was horrid".

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In this book there is a unique feature for Roth's prose - it has female protagonist. I actually can't remember another such book by Roth. His heroes are always perverted men, suffering from mismatch of the world they imagine for themselves and the real one.
Lucy, who plays main role in "When she was good" som
Анастасия Шартогашева
On the paperback of my edition there was a Stanley Elkin's comparison of Roth in "When Shae Was Good" with Dreiser - and it was perfectly correct. This book is another American Tragedy, similar to it in tense and the ability to stick the reader to itself and not to let go until the very climax. (No surprise in the fact that every American tragedy starts with unexpected pregnancy).

Clear, sensible, agreeable on every level, the viewpoint of the main character (Lucy Nelson) takes you to the long jo
Feb 25, 2012 cheeseblab rated it it was ok
Yeesh! Did Roth's agent tell him to try his hand with midwestern goyim, and with a female protagonist? If so, it seems not to have been the best advice. Lucy Nelson is a prig, generous (well, blind) to her own faults, unforgiving of everyone else's. And true, the people in her life, from drunken father to icy grandmother to callow husband to vain sometime-friend, do not constitute the solidest of support systems. But golly, what a self-righteous whiner.

But at that, the novel doesn't turn unreada
Jun 13, 2012 Kamil rated it really liked it
As a huge Roth fan, this book was extremely polarizing. For much of the book, I thought the characterization of Lucy was extremely weak, but the denouement of the book seems to salvage some of this for me. Much like Nabokov's Despair, When She Was Good relies on the unreliable narrator to move it's plot along, and this is an effective tool as we sympathize with Lucy but slowly begin to realize how damaged she has become. I'm not sure I feel like the ending was necessary, or even inevitable. Have ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Jairo rated it it was amazing
Comenta con claridad y tremendo "insight" psicológico, el efecto destructor del odio no solo en la protagonista (Lucy) que lo siente, por su padre y su esposo, sino su efecto tóxico en toda la constelación familiar. La protagonista cegada por el resentimiento y el rencor distorsiona la realidad e interpreta aun los intentos sinceros de reconciliación del padre y de acercamiento emocional del marido como un intento mas de causarle daño. Por otro lado el abuelo se ha pasado la vida justificando to ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Gauss74 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi piace molto leggere le opere del Roth giovanile, perchè ci trovo la sua perfetta scrittura e la lucidità d' analisi della società del suo tempo senza il bruciante e fastidioso cinismo dell'età matura.

"Quando lei era buona" è il terzo romanzo di Roth, e sublima la brutta esperienza del suo primo matrimonio: vista la portata dello scrittore il risultato non poteva che essere impressionante, per la precisione con cui viene resa la provincia americana degli anni cinquanta e per come il lettore n
Ubik 2.0
Dec 25, 2013 Ubik 2.0 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-e-book
Prova d’autore
Nel leggere queste pagine ho avuto l’impressione che un Roth ancora artisticamente giovane si esercitasse nella gestione della trama e dei personaggi nella prospettiva inconsapevole delle opere mature dove il racconto si farà più fluido, la partecipazione più distaccata, il linguaggio e lo stile più consapevoli. E’ già stato fatto notare che diversi elementi tipici dell’autore sono ancora assenti in questo romanzo, il chè a mio parere non è necessariamente un male poiché a volte le
Apr 01, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
A month after reading Philip Roth novels, I never remember his plots. I remember his characters, though, for a lifetime.

Lucy Bassart will be one that will stay with me for certain. In some ways, she could be labeled mentally ill. A control freak, she expected everyone around her to mold to her very strict (traditional yet non-traditional) moral standards. As the reader, even I sometimes felt frustrated with her steadfast refusal to suck it up and go with the flow. In other ways, though, Lucy cou
Dec 10, 2008 Kristina rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nanci Svensson
May 21, 2013 Nanci Svensson rated it it was ok
This novel is an enigma to me. In fact, I feel when reading it that perhaps Joyce Carol Oates has taken possession of Philip Roth's consciousness by some gothic trick she knows, or, I find my self wondering, is he parodying Oates? I don't like this book, I don't like Lucy, I don't like the EFFORT TO NARRATE I sense so tangibly here. This, of course, is a very odd thing to dislike, and it is part of the enigma of When She Was Good that this effort, which Roth's authorship is based upon, is coming ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing
I read this book at the same time I read When She Was Good and Goodbye Columbus. They were all phenomenal. This made me want to start reading all of Roth's books in the order he wrote them, not just haphazardly as I had been.

You could hear the youth in his voice, you could sense the lack of cynicism (he's still cynical, but it's the cynicism of youth). But, that wasn't what made them great. They were great because they sucked you in, and you believed them.
Feb 20, 2013 Angie rated it really liked it
I searched for more books to read that were like "Gone Girl," and this hit the mark. Great character development in Lucy. Although I initially felt sorry for her, the author successfully brings you around to hating her. Supposedly modeled after Roth's ex-wife.
Jul 11, 2007 Liz rated it liked it
Reading this book felt like having a panic attack. But it was good.
Barbara Francolini
quando lei si cibava di paranoie e manie di persecuzione. .
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Cuando ella era buena de Philip Roth. El “Roth” menos “rothiano”

La segunda novela de Philip Roth, Cuando ella era buena, escrita en 1967, es la más atípica con respecto al, por llamarlo de alguna manera, paradigma “rothiano”; inscrita en la tradición naturalista y ajena al entorno judío. Se ambienta en una ciudad del medio oeste en los años cuarenta y tiene como protagonista a una mujer, Lucy Nelson. El retrato de ella y su marido Roy devienen
Albert Kadmon
Oct 28, 2016 Albert Kadmon rated it really liked it
Una magnífica novela, capaz de transmitir una fuerte sensación de angustia, canónica del paradigma "rothiano" -la indignación infinita y el victimismo impuesto-, pero distinta a su vez de muchas de las historias más conocidas: en este caso el personaje principal es una mujer, apenas menciona el tema judío y no hay metatextualidad. Si tuviera que decir algo malo es que tal vez le sobra la increíblemente larga introducción genealógica de la primera parte que, aunque presente la vida norteamericana ...more
May 07, 2013 Gonzo rated it liked it
As I'm sure is true of many of you one here who have read When She Was Good or are contemplating reading it, I have been reading a lot of Roth lately and wanted to get a taste of his pre-Portnoy novels (I was thinking about reading Letting Go, but its length turned me off, or at least caused me to wait for a later day). This is not a great Roth book, but I would still recommend it, especially to those of you who consider yourselves Roth completists. It's a good read, and you will not be bored by ...more
John Mchugh
Sep 28, 2016 John Mchugh rated it really liked it
It's been ages since I have read anything by Philip Roth. And for no particular reason. I bought this novel as part of my Minnesota road trip reading, and found it to be interesting and compelling and a fearless description of the main character's struggles with the human condition. Also caused me to smile and smirk in several places. It's well written, and interesting in this day in age when there is a discussion going on in the fiction community about what I think is called appropriation. Appa ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Un Philip Roth inatteso quello che ho incontrato leggendo Quando lei era buona.

Infatti in questo libro da lui scritto nell’ormai lontano 1967 c’è tanto di diverso dalle altre mie letture dell’autore americano; si tratta del suo terzo libro e forse ai tempi non aveva ancora trovato il suo filone personale.

La cosa che più differenzia questa storia da tutte le altre è l’evidente mancanza assoluta di personaggi di origine ebraica in tutto il libro; di quella che diventerà una costante nei lavori fut
Dec 28, 2016 Marc rated it it was ok
Novels that are written like an endless introduction are nothing more than a chore
Roger K. Miller
Apr 18, 2014 Roger K. Miller rated it liked it

I half-liked, or liked half of, Philip Roth’s “When She Was Good.” For most of its length the story is compellingly told by an omniscient narrator with a ruefully sarcastic point of view. Roth neatly mocks the clichés, cant phrases, and shibboleths of the lower-upper working-class milieu of an Upper Midwest small city in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Its central character—not exactly a heroine—is Lucy Nelson, a high school girl grimly determined to rise above her semi-shabby family’s existenc
Apr 26, 2013 Alisea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucy Nelson ha avuto il padre alcolista e violento. Quando Roy e Lucy iniziano a uscire insieme, lui lo fa perché sta cercando se stesso, lei perché non sopporta più una madre remissiva e un padre ubriacone. Si innamorano, o cosi credono. Quando Lucy cede alle estenuanti insistenze, alle canzoni romantiche e alle parole rassicuranti di Roy, rimane incinta e, per rispettare le regole sociali, si sposano.
Non è un capolavoro:la storia è frammentata e ho trovato i personaggi troppo caratterizzati, e
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Verderame
  • Ice In The Bedroom
  • Tjeempie! of Liesje in luiletterland
  • De taal der liefde
  • Bijna iedereen kon omvallen
  • Francois Truffaut
  • Constance Ring
  • Het beloofde land
  • Look at the Harlequins!
  • Es geht uns gut
  • Roger's Version
  • Bazaar 2
  • De heilige Antonio
  • The Public Image
  • It's a Battlefield
  • The Silence and the Roar
  • Roscoe
  • Genoa: A Telling of Wonders
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
More about Philip Roth...

Share This Book