When She Was Good

When She Was Good

Book - 1995
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In this funny and chilling novel, the setting is a small town in the 1940s Midwest, and the subject is the heart of a wounded and ferociously moralistic young woman, one of those implacable American moralists whose "goodness" is a terrible disease.

When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been trying to reform the men around her, even if that ultimately means destroying herself in the process. With his unerring portraits of Lucy and her hapless, childlike husband, Roy, Roth has created an uncompromising work of fictional realism, a vision of provincial American piety, yearning, and discontent that is at once pitiless and compassionate.
Publisher: New York : Vintage, 1995
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed
ISBN: 9780679759256
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 22 cm


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Dec 17, 2015

Roth's second novel and third book overall. This came out before "Portnoy's Complaint" brought him fame and controversy. "When She Was Good" is recommended only for the serious Roth fan and much of its interest comes from how Roth was still trying to find his style and subject. It's also of interest because he is so often casually accused of misogyny and this has a female protagonist, albeit a rather overwrought and unlikable one. Again, this is probably best for someone who has already read quite a bit of Roth. Bummer of an ending too.


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