While I am not unsympathetic to cydscott's harsh but incisive observations (and indeed I urge you to read his/her review for balance), I experienced the book very differently. Contrary to the impression that the above mentioned review conveys, American Pastoral is not simply about the philosophical musings of an amateur psychoanalyst and unprogressive biographer. True it is that some of those musings can be a bit annoying, but they do serve a purpose in the story: we are presented with an unreliable narrator, one who stumbles rather badly in trying to make sense of the story of his subject, both adding to the sensation of mystery that a stranger's life can have upon us, and reminding us of the clumsiness with which we attempt to understand one another.
But perhaps the most memorable quality of American Pastoral for me as a reader is the intense tenderness with which Roth views some of his characters. (I do agree, however, with cydscott's complaint--if I understand it correctly--that women characters are portrayed in a more troubling way.) Whatever one may think of some of the narrator's fabrications, the story is in the end remarkably moving, and it chronicles the terrifying reverberations of a complicated moment in American History in the life of an ordinary American family.
I realize that many have praised Frank Muller's narration of A Tale of Two Cities, but I wish to offer a dissenting opinion. There is no denying Mr. Muller's considerable talent as a reader, let alone the splendid quality of his sonorous voice. My problem with Muller's performance is that the voice he employs for the narrator of the novel is every bit as dramatic as the voices he craftily invents for the characters. Thus it requires a bit of concentration to listen to the narration without feeling like one is listening to an intense speech. Listeners who--like me--prefer the sobriety of the voice of the very excellent Ms. Davina Porter, will likely feel a bit put off by the colorful and portentous narration of Mr. Muller. As to the quality of the novel, I humbly agree with the other reviewers.
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