Nemesis, By Philip Roth

Schoolyard battle for a hero that never was
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The Independent Culture

Nemesis is short, but as rich and nourishing as fillet steak.

Bucky Cantor is a Jewish physical instructor, not tall, but of Herculean build, an expert diver and javelin thrower. His weak eyes have prevented him from following his friends to fight in the Second World War. But he has his own battle to fight; a polio epidemic is rampaging through New Jersey, and it starts to strike the children in his playground with devastating effect.

A poignant, humane novel about how brute bad luck can interfere with one's hopes of being a hero. The theme is reminiscent of Lord Jim – but for me, this goes deeper than Conrad's novel, and is a better read too.