But the mixture of rage and elegy in the book is remarkable, and you have only to pause over the prose to feel how beautifully it is elaborated, to see that Mr. Roth didn’t entirely abandon Henry James after all.
American Pastoral is a sort of Dreiserian chronicle of the Levov family. Their painfully built fortune, even without the disgrace, might have declined owing to obsolescence, slower than a bomb, but going by the name of bankruptcy.
His tale is not told but recounted, not felt but described. The first three-quarters of this 423-page book are characterised by a near-absolute reliance on summary story-telling—this happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened—an elaborate outline relayed in language that is relentlessly, aggressively, annoyingly talky.
American Pastoral never fully engrossed me or quite lived up to the aspirations of its title, but Roth and Zuckerman tell a good story.— Brian Flanagan