"With the lover everyday life recedes," Roth writes, and exhibiting all his skill as a brilliant observer of human passion, he presents in Deception the tightly enclosed world of adulterous intimacy with a directness that has no equal in American fiction. At the center of Deception are two adulterers in their hiding place. He is a middle-aged American writer named Philip, living in London, and she is an articulate, intelligent, well-educated Englishwoman compromised by a humiliating marriage to which, in her thirties, she is already nervously half-resigned. The book's action consists of conversation, mainly the lovers talking to each other before and after making love. That dialogue, sharp, rich, playful, inquiring, "moving," as Hemione Lee writes "on a scale of pain from furious bafflement to stoic gaiety" - is nearly all there is to this book, and all there needs to be.
Another barrier to entry into the world Roth creates in this novel is the distance I felt from his characters' concerns. Their unhappiness and issues seem like aspects of their lives over which they could exert control, but they choose not to. The frustration the female character expresses about her marriage and her inability to take joy in things sounded too much like the outtakes of a dull therapy session. And while I don't have the same aversion that some folks do to Roth's seeming obsession with the Jewish experience, it nevertheless becomes tiring to hear someone simply talk about it at length without gaining the additional perspective a more traditionally structured novel might offer.