The topic is not easy ' how to come to terme with the fact that your father is dying and there isn't anything you can do ' except face your own mortality as well. Roth is such an excellent writer and such an honest person as well about himself and his own shortcomings. He makes you think about your own situation as well of course, and since he is so relentlessly honest about himself ' maybe the reader can learn to deal a little more easily with this difficult topic as well. Roth doesn't spare the reader any of the heart-breaking details you have to go through when you have to come to terms with a death in your own family. Still, this is wonderful to read and keeps your attention to the very last sentence. Very recommendable.
This novel was called "A True Story" by Mr Roth. Indeed, many parts in "Patrimony" have a personal tone. The author talks about his mother's sudden death in a restaurant in 1981 and about the sad and painful last year of his father's life. Herman Roth was diagnosed with a massive brain tumour so that little by little he became more and more disabled and needed constant attention. It is impressive to see the author's devotion and attention to his ageing father, all the more since his condition required an almost constant care. One also feels the father's shame and embarrassment as his physical condition worsens. Mr Roth manages to create an irrepressible and irresistible hero, his father.
With the possible exception of Goodbye Columbus when you undertake a Roth novel you are in for some heavy reading and a major time committment. No so with this novel. At almost novella length, Roth spins a somewhat possibly fictionalized story of the elder Roth's late life which despite being the father of a famous author, he is also a man full of memories and regrets. The most moving of scenes which will touch anyone who has lost a loved one is the trip to the Mother graveside. Ultimately no matter how you behave during the visit; if you talk to the deceased, weed the plot or whatever, you walk away the same as you came in...alone... to paraphrase Roth. This an other flashes of the master make this and all Roth novels worth reading over and over.
Patrimony is a non-fiction account of the last years of Philip Roth's father, Herman, covering as well the family history which was so important to Herman. Not only is Roth a fine stylist, but the sensitivity of this account transcends even the exceptional style. By turns tragic, sardonic, humerous and moving, this book is a window into the values of late twentieth-century America, both good and bad