Having greatly enjoyed Nemesis, I picked up Indignation, also by Philip Roth. This book is about a teenage boy, Marcus Messner going to university, and struggling to settle in, while his family is falling apart at home.
Written from the first person, we follow Marcus as he looks back on his time at university and certain periods in his childhood. He’s Jewish, grew up in New York as the son of a butcher, where he helped out his father, and is now a top student at university.
His father becomes consumed with worry for him, which drives Marcus away from home and to a more distant college than he would’ve liked. There, Marcus keeps running away from things; avoiding almost all social contact and avoiding the girl he likes after the first date went so well that he couldn’t understand it.
As the title suggests, the book is about teenage anger and angst. We watch Marcus struggle to deal with things due to his anger and anxiousness. He just wants to study well, and doesn’t see value in university besides that, and is frustrated by anything disrupting his studying, even attempted friendships. The only exception is the girl he likes, but who is troubled and less interested in him than he is in her.
The book is set during the Korean war, when young men would face the draft, although this could be deferred while studying, and hoping the war would be over by graduation. This adds another dimension to the fear of the parents and students, that any problem meaning they can not continue their study could take them to war.
Overall I did not enjoy this book as much as Nemesis, not finding the setting so interesting, and finding Marcus a frustrating character to follow. While having some sympathy for his struggles, it is sad to see his lack of trust and interest in other people, including his own family.