Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top ten novels about societies under stress

Justin Cartwright's novels include the Booker-shortlisted In Every Face I Meet, the Whitbread Novel Award-winner Leading the Cheers and the acclaimed White Lightning, shortlisted for the 2002 Whitbread Novel Award, The Promise of Happiness, winner of the 2005 Hawthorden Prize and the acclaimed The Song Before It Is Sung. Cartwright was born in South Africa and lives in London. Other People’s Money, his latest novel, is both a subtle thriller and an acutely delineated portrait of a world and a class.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten state of the nation novels. "When nations are undergoing some form of stress, be it financial or ethical or even military, state of the nation novels tend to be more numerous," he writes; "they come in many guises, but they have one thing in particular, that they provide a commentary or a judgment on the times."

One title on his list:
American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The best of Roth's state of Jewish America novels. It has a maturity and a lyricism and was perhaps a necessary journey away from his staple character, Nathan Zuckerman, who has only a small part in this book.
Read about the other novels on Cartwright's list.

American Pastoral is on Sheila Hancock's list of her six best books Maria Semple's list of her six best books, and among Ward Just's five favorite novels about the pursuit of money. It appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best riots in literature and Jason Diamond's list of "The 50 Most Essential Works Of Jewish Fiction Of The Last 100 Years."

--Marshal Zeringue