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Paperback The Plot Against America Book

ISBN: 1400079497

ISBN13: 9781400079490

The Plot Against America

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Book Overview

Never more relevant than now, this national bestseller will challenge all who believe that "it can't happen here." "A terrific political novel . . . Sinister, vivid, dreamlike . . . creepily plausible. . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened." -- The New York Times Book Review In an extraordinary feat of narrative invention, Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Kept me awake at night thinking about what could have been

This is a novel. I know it is all fiction. And yet ... Philip Roth is a Pulitzer Prize winning America writer, his body of work spanning more than five decades. His style is not fancy. You won't remember an artistic turn of phrase or the poetic resonance of the words. But you remember the story, just as I remember some of his short stories in "Goodbye Columbus" which I read in the 1950s. His style has developed through the years. It's richer now, more abundant with words. There is one constant though. And that is his love for story. In this unique novel, Mr. Roth takes us back to Newark, New Jersey in 1940. Narrated by a Jewish 10-year old boy, we get a sense of his non-religious Jewish neighborhood and the peaceful lifestyle of his family, born in America and loving their country. Of course they all know who Charles Lindbergh is. But they never thought it possible that he be elected President of the United States. His anti-Semitism is legendary but this is, after all, America. It shouldn't really matter that the President admires Hitler and starts signing pacts that promise to keep America out of the war in Europe. We follow all this through the eyes of the young boy who watches with wonder the goings-on around him. His 14-year old brother joins a youth group and spends his summer vacation in Kentucky to become more Americanized. His older cousin runs away to Canada to enlist and returns as an amputee. His aunt marries a rabbi who is dazzled by Lindbergh and even goes to Washington to a reception for a well-known Nazi. His father, who is an insurance agent, refuses to be transferred to mid-America. And his mother tries hard to keep the family from turmoil. Though all this, there is a feeling of foreboding, and I felt I was right there, inside the young boy's head, as he experienced the events going on around him. No. There are no concentration camps or gas ovens. And no, the horror can in no way compare to the experiences of the Jews in Europe. And yet, every time I picked up the book I felt chills. Some of it could be linked to politics today but that, of course in the eye of the beholder. This is fiction. But then why does it ring so true. This is not a pleasant book to read. Mr. Roth is better in setting up the scene than he is in completing the story. Towards the end the twists and turns of the plot are a little convoluted and preposterous. But I sympathize with the writer's challenge because he's writing about an historical event that didn't happen and trying to make it real. And so I do not fault him for this. Instead, I applaud this rather unique novel which kept me awake at night thinking about what could have been.

The Roths of Newark

Philip Roth gives us the America of his youth, growing up in Newark in the late 30's, with parents who are achingly proud and hopeful to be Americans and at the same time fully aware of the anti-Semitism of the time that could, with a turn of fate, lay waste to all their dreams. While the plot device of the election of Charles Lindbergh over FDR is such a turn of fate, a catastrophic one for Philip and his family, the heart of the book is a powerful family drama. His father is the tragic hero of the piece, his mother is admirable and richly drawn. His brother is in adolescent and political rebellion; his cousin idealistically goes to war; Philip is seven years old and confused. We are given clues that, as terrible as things are, the world as we know it will not end. What drives the story is Roth's imagining of his own family in this crisis. It is not a jump to think of any family that assumes some level of safety and wakes up to a world run by thugs who want to do you harm. Roth's family is Jewish; the Holocaust has not yet happened, but the pogroms of Europe are only a generation removed. This is a fine book. The public characters are as interesting as the private ones. Some may find the premise too simple, and this book does lack the complexity of "American Pastoral". I think it is as artful. It is written on a smaller scale, and every detail is right.

A political potboiler and surprisingly poignant family drama

"The Plot Against America" is a remarkable and unexpected change for Philip Roth in two ways. The first difference is getting all the attention from the critics: he has written a political potboiler in an entirely different genre, a fable that recalls Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," Octavia Butler's "Kindred," and (of course) Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here." But, second, this latest work is his most accessible and thickly plotted novel to date, and--in spite of the forceful political theme--it is also perhaps his mellowest work of fiction. Although the prose is identifiably Roth's, the narrative is a real page-turner merged with a loving family portrait. Thanks to the media hoopla, the novel's storyline is already well-known: the book posits a United States where, in 1940, Charles Lindbergh becomes president. Roth scores a subtle political and historical point here: the reader soon realizes that President Lindbergh himself never expresses overtly anti-Semitic remarks or actions. Instead, the true threats to American democracy are the men Lindbergh chooses for his bipartisan government, including Democrat Burton Wheeler (as Vice President) and the virulently anti-Semitic Henry Ford (as Secretary of the Interior). Furthermore, remaining true to a policy of "American First" isolation (a view Lindbergh steadfastly supported in real life), the new administration negotiates a nonaggression pact with the German Nazi government, develops faith-based programs to "integrate" Jewish residents into American society (with the ostensibly secondary goal of separating them from each other), and maintains an aura of serenity and acquiescence in the face of a rising tide of domestic anti-Semitism. (The volume includes a 30-page appendix with true-life biographical summaries of the historical figures, as well as the complete text of Lindbergh's infamous 1941 speech accusing the British and Jews of conspiring to lead the United States into war.) Yet that's only half the story. Roth's cautionary tale swings between the "alternate history" of the United States and the domestic drama of his own family. Told from the point of view of a seven-year-old Philip Roth, the novel is a riveting yet loving portrait of an average American family who fight and bicker about the most mundane matters in spite of the gathering storm. The most immediate concerns, from the perspective of the young narrator, are the condition of his beloved stamp collection, the hovering presence of the nerdy kid living in the apartment downstairs, the ghosts in the cellar, the grotesqueness of his good-for-nothing cousin's amputated leg, and (above all) the division among members of his household that result when his older brother, his aunt, and a local rabbi passionately support the goals of Lindbergh administration. Although Roth's trademark wit and humor are always present (and there are some superbly hilarious one-liners and slapstick episodes), many of the elements one usually

Lucky Lindy Contaminates Roth's World in Searing Novel

With his latest masterful novel, Philip Roth has written a very personal story about his pre-WWII childhood in Newark, NJ. The twist is that the world he paints is significantly different from what was then reality. Charles Lindbergh, dashing American hero for piloting the first transatlantic flight a dozen years earlier, has defeated FDR in his bid for a third term in 1940 to become the 33rd President of the U.S. The Republicans are in charge, and Lindbergh's sole charter is to keep the U.S. out of WWII. An isolationist in real life, Lindbergh was known for his anti-Semitic sentiments, and Roth creates a revisionist history by building his case for an America that turns against its Jewish citizens. He has meticulously assembled archival materials, such as Lindbergh's actual radio address in which he accused the British and the Jews of trying to force America into a foreign war. The result is a world that seems at once outlandish and logical and what ensues seems as horrifying as it does eerily plausible. Roth could have developed a more standard political thriller with his "Twilight Zone"-like concept and painted a broad landscape of a democratic people altered by fascist leadership. But this novel is no simple polemic about the dangers of a fascist America and its consequences on current generations. It is much more a remembrance almost like Woody Allen's "Radio Days" or Barry Levinson's "Avalon", complete with colorful relatives and local neighborhood characters with names that come out of comic books. The seven-year old Philip has a brother he idolizes even as the brother slowly turns into a Lindbergh-abiding Fascist, a proud father who is being eroded personally and professionally by Jewish persecution and a stoic mother who can only stand by and observe in fear. The fictitious political atmosphere does not engulf this family as much as it insinuates itself into their lives through unexpected acts of fear and desperation. Nonetheless, the book does make a profound statement about the reduction of civil liberties for the sake of national security, an issue that confronts us today when one considers the various tactics being weighed to fight the war on terrorism within the boundaries of our country. If anything, Roth has written a book that slams such means as racial profiling to eliminate supposed undesirables, as conservative extremist Michelle Malkin would have us believe to be the only option in her salacious treatise, "In Defense of Internment". "The Plot Against America" is a serious-minded, often lugubrious novel by a master author who writes in such a natural, detailed style that his alternative world reverberates with a deep sense of his own identity. Following Roth on roads not taken will challenge many readers, roads so painfully pot-holed that they refuse to believe would ever exist, but I can assure you the journey is revelatory albeit an often troubling one. This is ultimately a triumphant novel that will not disappoint fans of

The Plot Against America Mentions in Our Blog

The Plot Against America in Presidential Fiction: Reimagining the Lives of U.S. Presidents
Presidential Fiction: Reimagining the Lives of U.S. Presidents
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 12, 2021

Celebrating Lincoln’s 1809 birth (February 12) and Presidents' Day, we thought it would be fun to explore the appearance of US presidents in fiction. From imaginative retellings to alternate histories to intimate depictions of behind-the-scenes relationships, here are some fun novels about America’s commanders-in-chief.

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