Nemesis by Philip Roth

I have been a Roth fan for years and this, his latest book and the winner of the Booker prize last year, is  as excellent as so many or his others. Familiar themes are here – Jewishness, especially of the New York variety; mortality; the motivations of people; and family.

It is a short book – a novella, I suppose. The core of it is the mind of the protagonist, Bucky Cantor. Without ever explicitly laying it out for you, Roth pieces together the psychology and thinking of this character quite brilliantly.

Polio is the driver of the action and the book is set in the 1940s when the precise cause and means of transmission of the disease were unknown. From the start, even when the narration is of events untroubling in themselves, there is a backbeat of foreboding that comes from the subtlety of the writing.

A very human book – it’s great.


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