Lisa's Reviews > American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
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Aug 04, 2008

really liked it
Read in April, 2007

Basically this book is an etiology. "Etiology" is a word I learned from the author, Philip Roth, who likes to use big words. Etiology is the study of the causes of disease. In American Pastoral, Swede Levov expends his life trying to determine the cause of the disease that claimed his daughter, made her a murderer and turned her into a nut, and this becomes an allegory for whatever it is that undermines the American promises of prosperity, civic order and domestic bliss.

Maybe that sounds boring or depressing, but no — this is an excellent book. It’s a compelling read that builds with surprising momentum, even though we know what happens from the start. It’s a long book, and the sentences and paragraphs sometimes go on and on, but the ones that do are often the most affecting — Roth can turn a very sharp phrase. But in the end, it’s not his impressive ability to put words together that stays with the reader, it’s their emotional impact — the intense sense of loss and futility, anguish and rage, the desperation of the main character’s attempt to hold himself together.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I really like the way you have worded your review, using Roth's "etiology". It fits quite elegantly. We've been having a discussion over on Constant Reader on American Pastoral and I finally decided to read the reviews and to me your's hits home.


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