American Pastoral Background

American Pastoral Background

American Pastoral is a novel written by Philip Roth in 1997. The story mainly revolves around Seymour Irving Levov who is a wealthy businessman and believes he is living the perfect American life with his wife Dawn and daughter Meredith. However, with the USA's involvement in the Vietnam war, Seymour's daughter Meredith becomes politically radicalised and Meredith plants a bomb inside a post office which kills an innocent bystander. Meredith is forced to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Dawn deals with depression as a result of Meredith's behaviour and Seymour tries to comfort her and instructs an architect to design for Dawn a dream home. Later at a family party, Seymour discovers that his wife has been having an affair with the architect and plans to leave him. The author at this point also reveals that Seymour had an affair with Meredith's speech therapist, Sheila Salzman previously. Sheila and her partner had in fact kept Meredith in their home after she had set off the bomb and Seymour confronts her about this angrily, asking why they had not turned her in. The book ends with Seymour realising that all those he loved have betrayed him.

The author wrote this novel to show how even though a person can believe that they have all the happiness in the world, this is not always the case and their life can be turned upside down easily. The author also wanted to write the story to display how angry some Americans were with the USA's involvement in the Vietnam war and how this politically radicalised them.

The book was received well by critics and fans alike. In fact, The Times commented that American Pastoral was a 'magnificent novel'. The novel also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year and the New Jersey Notable Book Award.

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