Shaz S's Reviews > The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
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May 15, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011
Read from May 15 to 23, 2011

I never read Roth before although I have had a copy of "The Human Stain" for ages now. That book came highly recommended from all quarters but the first few pages very too dry for my taste and I couldn’t commit myself to that book because it seemed to require a high level of patience with unwieldy dialogues.

Compared to that, "The Ghost Writer" is short and crisp, reads more like three short novellas and can be read within a day.

This novel introduces us to a young Nathan Zuckerman at the start of his career. He has published a few short stories and has been profiled by a magazine and this little taste of fame prompts him to pursue the next great Jewish American story. In his pursuit he goes off to meet his literary hero E. I. Lonoff, a middle-aged reclusive writer whose mantra to great writing happens to be "turn sentences around". There he meets Miss Amy Bellette who works as Lonoff's unofficial assistant and has a secret history of her own (or so it seems). Zuckerman ends up staying the night at his place and discovers a few of his mentor's secrets which could threaten Lonoff's marriage.

I love the straight forward language and the characterisation. All characters are imbued with flaws which define their whole identities. The book is full of surprises but not overbearingly so. There is a subtle tension, especially in the last novella which keeps the pace interesting. The conversations between Lonoff and Zuckerman are intriguing and wise. The only part of the book that didn’t work for me was the ending, a little too melodramatic and predictable. If Roth had handled the last few pages with a little more aesthetic and mellowed it down a bit, the book would have definitely achieved 4.5/5 stars.

Rating: 3.5/5
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