Nemesis – Philip Roth

Book Club can clearly take the credit for introducing me to this particular tome.  And though I didn’t get it on more than one level, yes apparently I’d missed the super obvious references and parallels to Oedipus, this in no way impeded my appreciation and enjoyment of the tale.

Briefly, it focuses on a small neighbourhood in New Jersey in the year 1944. So, post America’s involvement in the Second World War and slap bang in the beginning of their summer.  It details, amongst many other things, the very real and horrid terror of Polio. A rapid, ferocious and at times, deadly disease I had no prior knowledge of (aside from having a spoonful of medicine at some stage when I was young and taking my son for his recommended jabs).

Bucky’s the character you follow throughout. He’s incredibly likable and though serious, is immensely dedicated, not just to the children he supervisors, but also to his grandmother; the memory of his grandfather; his girlfriend; her family; and his community at large. Further too, he’s clean living, patriotic and is determined to do what’s right, regardless of its personal cost to himself.

I just thought the clean living bit might put you off, though don’t let it, rather focus on his determination to do what’s right, for his internal struggles make it really worth pursuing.

For instance, I found myself questioning his actions, especially as you enter the second half of the book, attempting to place myself in his position and thinking how would I have handled the situation, would I have chosen to do as Bucky did, or would I have done it differently.  The answers took some fierce internal deliberation time.

I’d recommend you to read it. it’s quick, you won’t struggle with the text and it’s a great introduction to a different time, a different place, different values and an abhorrent virus.

Finally, thank you Dr (or Mr) Salk and Dr (or Mr) Sabin, for sorting out a vaccine against this hideous disease and watch out Mr Roth, for I’m very interested in reading more.

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