Madhuri's Reviews > American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
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Feb 23, 08

bookshelves: america, pulitzer
Read in February, 2008

The only thing I have read from Philip Roth before this was Goodbye Columbus. That was one book that I had liked for its genuineness and for its stories that depicted the life of a community, its place in the rest of the world, the fears and the anxiety and a need for assertion.
American Pastoral came heavily recommended from all Critics lists, and I read it with some amount of expectation. Sadly, I was a little disappointed in it. I found it slow, replete with inconsistent characters, and finally the sketch of a very dreamy, artificially concocted America. An America that sounds as superficial in its benevolence as it does in its wretchedness. I did not find any depth in the story or the way it was told, the happiness as well as the misery of the super-human protagonist looked too much of an exaggeration. It kept missing that ring of reality.
If there was something good about the book, it was its last part: Paradise Lost, which depicts a dinner scene at the protagonist's house. It is in this one scene that his world crumbles, and the myth of 'Everyone Welcome in America' is slowly disintegrated. To some extent, the face-off between a conforming father and a rebellious daughter also is powerful, but again borders on fakeness. I don't have a special corner for "realism", but if you are being fantastic, the pretense of depicting reality should be completely absent.Roth's book, however, seems to hang in a limbo.
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