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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1998

Philip Roth presents a vivid portrait of an innocent man being swept away by a current of conflict and violence in his own backyard - a story that is as much about loving America as it is hating it. Seymour "Swede" Levov, a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, and the prosperous heir of his father's Newark glove factory comes of age in thriving, triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s. Not even a most private, well-intentioned citizen, it seems, gets to sidestep the sweep of history. American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American's rise and fall ... a strong, confident man, a master of social equilibrium, overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder. For the Swede is not allowed to stay forever blissful living out life in rural Old Rimrock in his 170 year-old stone farmhouse with his pretty wife (his college sweetheart and Miss New Jersey of 1949) and his lively albeit precocious daughter, the apple of his eye ... that is until she grows up to become a revolutionary terrorist.

©1997 Philip Roth (P)1997 by Dove Audio, (P) 2014 by Phoenix Books

Critic Reviews

Audie Award Winner, Best Solo Narration by a Male, 1998

"One of Roth's most powerful novels ever...moving, generous and ambitious...a fiercely affecting work of art." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Dazzling...a wrenching, compassionate, intelligent novel...gorgeous." ( Boston Globe)
"At once expansive and painstakingly detailed.... The pages of American Pastoral crackle with the electricity and zest of a first-rate mind at work." ( San Francisco Chronicle)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Powerful Masterpiece

Any additional comments?

What a book! Expertly narrated and beautifully written. A story that sticks with the reader long after the recording ends. Filled with raw human emotion that leaves the reader feeling they understand these characters and their lives inside out. A keeper that I can whole heartedly recommend if you want to be captivated and swept up in a story that is difficult to put down. One of the rare times that I carried my iPod around with me as I did my chores so I could keep listening. Just plain terrific storytelling!

43 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Best Narration

Ron Silver is brilliant. His accents, phrasing, and timing give the story an added drama that must be exactly what Phillip Roth imagined. This is the best narration of any audiobook I have ever read.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Relentless

This is the 10th or 12th audiobook to which I've listened on Audible.com, and far and above the rest of them (most of which are more "popular" or "populist" titles) this one is relentless. It's both impossible to listen to, and impossible to put down.

It's not a novel of plot, though there is one, and it's not a novel of characters, though there are many of them and they are very well drawn. Rather, it's a novel of images, and a novel of feelings, and a novel of writing. It's the most well written of the novels to which I've listened, especially since I find that I enjoy the languid descriptions and sections of prose that Roth uses. It's a story of what happens when an original sinner interacts with humans of all ilks, angels and demons alike. It's a story of nature (of the human kind) and nurture (of the human kind) and interactions (of the human kind) and above all, it's the story of people.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

brilliant

I miss stories this well told, characters this well drawn, human-frailty this deeply felt.
But what elevated this book as an audio offering was the reading of Ron Silver. After having so many books ruined by utterly tone-deaf readings, it was a pleasure to finally encounter a reader that seemed to really understand what the book required. It is a hell of a performance. Other authors should be so lucky.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Masterpiece

I usually don't read fiction, but this is one of the best audio books I've ever experienced of any genre. You will quickly see why Roth is considered one of the greatest American writers of the last fifty years and the naration only adds to the experience. Some books hold my attention better on audio and some on the printed page. This is a masterpiece of both audio and the written word. It will hold your attention from beginning to end.

48 of 52 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and Insightful

Roth caught the essence of American cultural history over the last century and also the central dynamics of family psychology -- a particularly insightful look at the difference between the surface and the inside of people. It has a Jewish coloring -- but is not a Jewish book. Ron Silver does an absolutely great job with Jewish inflection and self-reflection. I found myself frequently telling others about the ideas and insights in this book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Moving, heartbreaking

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

ON MY TOP TEN BEST READS LIST

This is one of THE best books I have ever encountered! These Roth characters are even more flawed, more human, than in his previous novels. The story is both broad, in the number of decades it covers, and deep, in its microscopic look at the impact of events on one man's life. Roth demonstrates with vigor and mastery the differences between generations, and the pain we each feel in our inability to grasp what people of a different age find important. The writing, as always, is lyrical and wandering, which considering the Jewish culture he writes about, is fitting, funny, and stinging. The narrator, Ron Silver, brings the Jewish angst to life well with his inflections.

I have already listened to passages over again, which after 14 plus hours says something about the strength of the descriptive passages, dialogue and ideas presented. And I will listen to this book again. It is a keeper. Although I never did anything quite as extreme as the daughter, Merry, this novel gave me a taste of what went through my parent's minds when I was in high school and college, pursuing passions of my own generation. An incredible read!

37 of 41 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best -- do not miss

First, the reader is excellent. But he is reading a masterpiece. American Pastoral brilliant. Through the eyes of one family and the narrator, Roth captures the essence of the changes and turmoil that shook the country in the 60s and 70s. The narrative technique, the narrative itself, the dialogue, so many turns of phrase, really deliver a powerful emotional message. I don't know whether i would have enjoyed it as much without the wonderful narrator. Even though I had already listened to it, I chose it as a book for a long car trip and my husband loved it too. I liked it even more the second time. So much nuance.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful Reading

Ron Silver the actor reads this wonderful book. His distinctive voice may take a few minutes to adjust to, but his new york accent is perfectly matched to the text. His rendering is masterful. I've not read the book but can't image this isn't one of those where the reader actually improves this Pulitzer winner.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Neal
  • 12-02-15

Mature, complex, meditative.

Where does American Pastoral rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A fabulous work of American lit. It fits perfectly in the canon of Steinbeck, McCullers, Fitzgerald, even Hemingway. The themes are familiar and welcoming. Here we have the great obsession, which is becoming increasingly British too, more's the pity, with living a comfortable life, materially replete, but at the same time, anaesthetised, numb to reality. This principle is personified as Seymour 'Swede' Levov, whose calm, laid-back, Johnny Appleseed approach to life is belied by those who share his world. The Swede is like an old cart horse who plods unknowingly along while the world beneath the surface becomes increasingly complex and angst ridden. He is a nexus of tranquillity at the heart of a storm of repressed rage.

What did you like best about this story?

Roth writes brilliantly, and nowhere is this more evident than in his handling of dialogue. The natural and fluid expression of thought and feeling is so accomplished. Whole worlds are contained in the lightest exchange. At the heart of this novel is the chimera of the American Dream. It is that trick of the mind that can only be maintained at the cost of blindness to the suffering of others, as much in the small world of family as the larger, more complex, but ultimately equally reactive world of politics and social change. The Swede's gradual and painful awakening is America's too. Herein is the brilliance of the novel, because the Swede is America. He does everything possible to fit, everything within the scope of his prodigious powers of adaptation, to look the part, but it is at the cost of everything authentic and meaningful in his life. Of course this allegory is true for us all, whether we are American or not, so perhaps we should talk here about Westernism, rather than Americanism. The Western Dream has a price, but we do not see it. And when we have seen it, it is already too late because everything we have 'won' has already been tainted by it.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

That's hard to isolate, because it is not a novel of "scenes" but rather a gradual and sublime unfoldment. It is a process. We are awakened to reality through the eyes of the Swede.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not possible. It requires a thoughtful approach. It is at one level a straightforward and intriguing story, but on another level it is a meditation.

Any additional comments?

I loved this novel and will be reading more Philip Roth as a result.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-09-17

Background noise

The constant background noise or echo or crowd noise it's hard to tell but it's so annoying like it's been recorded at a train station

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Slye Cat
  • 02-07-17

just not that interesting

What would have made American Pastoral better?

Making the reader care more about the story's themes. The set up was not such that you wanted to devote your emotion or involvement to what transpired, whether the Swede, glove making (deeply dull) or yet another tale of immigrants striving to attain the dream. the book really had nothing to add on the latter point.

What was most disappointing about Philip Roth’s story?

Did not seem original. Run of the mill family history / angst tale

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Ron Silver?

Someone a little younger with clearer diction.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig M. Hanson
  • 08-10-18

Great Story, Poor Recording

The story is fascinating & extremely well told but there is a lot of his & there is often a mumbling sound in the background. It would easily have been a 5 Star review but for this.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Vanna
  • 07-08-18

Turgid and depressing

Given Philip Roth's recent death I felt I should 'read' this famous book. The introduction says it has been digitally re-mastered from a much earlier recording - clearly from a time when audio was a lot less professional than now. For an English person the American reader is very, very, hard to listen to - not just the accent which makes some words incomprehensible - but the speed of delivery, which is much too fast for a listener. Then when you add on the depressing content of the book, it turns it into a gruelling 'read'. I did not enjoy it at all, particularly the last few hours which seemed very repetitive. Now I know I never want to read any more Philip Roth!

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  • Anthony
  • 07-07-18

Tragic America

I read this after learning of Roth's death in 2018 and hearing this book cited as one of his greatest. It doesn't disappoint - fascinating, sad, engaging, beautifully written and read... a terrific audiobook.

More than sad, this is a tragic story of a family that have worked so hard to achieve the American Dream - integration and success, despite difference - and of how this all falls apart in the next generation which challenges US engagement in Vietnam. This is a beautifully written novel highlighting the dilemmas in a father-daughter relationship seeking to overcome a range of almost insurmountable difficulties ... childhood stuttering, rejection of community, revolutionary action, adoption of a cult-like faith. Feelings of love and admiration are interface with guilt, despair and deep loss. We, the reader-listeners experience the fluidity and depth of this emotional journey and the powerlessness of the main protagonist, Seymour Levov.

Deeply engaging with no simple solutions to the unfolding personal, family and community tragedy. Wonderful!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • SR
  • 07-01-18

faticoso

a tratti noioso e un po ' claustrofobico. ho fatto fatica a scorgerne la grandezza.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-11-18

A breathtakingly novel and a bravura performance.

Philip Roth is one of those writers I seem always to have known about but until his recent death, never read; except possibly his Portnoy's Complaint way back in my youth, as a memory of a young kid doing barely mentionable things with his mother's or sister's knickers borrowed from the bathroom laundry basket is lodged somewhere in a dark corner of my mind. My favourite author, Howard Jacobson always speaks highly of Roth, and wrote a fine tribute to his writing shortly after his death, and it was reading that which prompted me to purchase American Pastoral (that, and a free credit to try Audible for the first time.) I listened an hour or so each day over a couple of weeks late at night in bed and early each morning, enthralled, spellbound, impressed and often disturbed by the quality of the writing, the significance of the plot that revealed, unpicked and laid bare the human condition on both the social/political and individual/familial/personal scale. It is quite possibly, the most moving, most disconcerting and honest novel I have had the privilege of reading. Or should I say, listening to. For I have not (as yet) read the beast. I have listened to it, in a 'theatre for one', listened to a braura performance by Ron Silver, whose feeling for the themes of this great work is matched only by his grasp of, and ability to convey, the essence of the characters whose voices he recreates for this appreciative audience of one. Quite frankly, the best 20 quid I never spent. Thank you Audible, thank you Philip Roth. I am now off to buy the book to read myself (and to order the next volume in the trilogy, also happily, performed by Ron Silver.)

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • S C LEPPINGTON
  • 09-16-17

One of Americas best writers!

I found the detail and repetition tedious at times and I hated the ranting dialogue, but overall it was still a good story and a chink of insight into the American people and their way of life!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen HJ
  • 03-08-17

A perfect ready of a brilliant book

The book is a modern classic. This deeply engaging story of an enviously handsome man, married to a former beauty queen whose perfect life catastrophically disintegrates. The catalyst for this destruction is America's involvement in the Vietnam war. Sides are taken, but in this case both sides are against the war. While comfortable liberals write letters others favour more radical action that wants to go further and tear down the fabric of American society. There are clashes too between religious traditions, cultures and generations all set against to polite and reasonable central character.

The reading by Ron Silver is masterful. This assured narration puts the listener instantly at ease. No accents, no character voices, just the story as written. Perfection.