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The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America (2004)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,730157554 (3.71)369
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» See also 369 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Philip Roth makes only small changes to history to allow anti-Semitic aviation legend Charles A. Lindbergh to displace Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Presidency in 1940 by running an isolationist ticket against the two-term incumbent. FDR is dumped and President Lindbergh signs neutrality treaties with the Axis powers. This story is about the cascading effects of that change on American society and in particular on one particular Jewish family from Newark, and one small boy (young 'Philip Roth') in that family.

Roth uses historical figures in this fiction; they speak and act in character, but the book is not about them. It is about growing up in fear of persecution, and how it stresses and strains people with that fear, even if that fear might not be justified by external events. There is a great pot of menace, comedy, colourful characters, politics and family fighting in this book. An excellent read if you are interested in depresssion-era or wartime USA or alternative history. It also has a really fascinating postscript which describes the actual history of the characters. Truth is stranger than fiction! ( )
1 vote questbird | Mar 22, 2017 |
An impressive novel in many ways, most of all in my opinion for the author taking himself as the main protagonist ... at the age of 9 years. You really get the feeling of that 9 year old boy looking at the adults world, beginning to understand what the "adult" troubles are but sometimes looking at them with a totally different focus.
The US get a drastic turnover when Roosevelt is not elected president in 1940 but Lindbergh is. This could have happened history is the other protagonist in the book. Father, mother and brother Roth all look differently at the political and societal evolutions, troubling the 9 year old Philip more and more.
The downside of the book is the length of it. Multiple events are first told about in a kind of stream of events, and then repeated with the 9 year old Philip wondering what just happened or reviving them from within his perspective.
This one was a tip of LT member .Monkey., it's a good read but not as powerful as [Verontwaardiging]. ( )
  Lunarreader | Feb 19, 2017 |
Ever since Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, I've become interested in fictional treatments of dictatorial American presidential administrations. Sinclair Lewis' IT CANT HAPPEN HERE was very disappointing. It felt like he had thrown it together in a matter of weeks with cardboard cut-out characters.
Philip Roth's entry into this genre turned out to be much more substantial. Told from the viewpoint of a young Jewish boy (also named Phil Roth) growing up in Newark, the story begins in 1940 with America deeply divided in the face of the War that is raging in Europe. When the GOP convention is at an impasse in nominating a candidate to oppose the incumbent and pro-intervention FDR, prominent isolationist Lucky Lindy flies to the convention city and rushes into the arena still clad in his flight gear. He is nominated by acclamation and goes on to win the election.
But there are dark things lurking in the background, especially for Jewish Americans. The book goes on to detail new governmental policies, accompanied by violence of an increasingly emboldened anti-Semitic segment of the population.
Roth does a masterful job of interpreting the turbulent time through the eyes of an adolescent. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Feb 10, 2017 |
(2) I don't know why it has taken me so long to read this book. I think it came out in ~ 2003 but it is scarily relevant today. Prescient, in many ways. Can a man who seems to tacitly approve of racism become president and allow simmering prejudice and xenophobia to become acceptable? Could a president be an apologist for a fascist dictator committing human rights violations? Surely not, right. . .

This is what would happen if Charles Lindberg ran for and ultimately won the presidency on the Eve of WW2 instead of FDR. The writing is engaging and straightforward. Well-constructed prose that does not get in the way of good story-telling. Little Philip Roth, our narrator, is well characterized and really quite endearing with the vomiting over the stump bandage, the lost stamp collection, stealing poor Selden's clothes. Somehow the narration hit just the right note between quite serious and dramatic, but occasionally just so funny.

I thought the story was really quite well-done and believable. The other characters such as Mr. Roth, Alvin, Selden - "I just ate some Fig Newtons," - were spot-on and well-developed. I thought the novel ended a bit too suddenly when the false history suddenly catches up to real history - but I would have loved a little more of the familial aftermath.

I guess if I had a bullhorn, or a social media presence, or a newspaper column I would tell all to read or re-read this book. It reminds one of the dangers of 'collaboration' in order to keep the majority safe and happy. 'Make America Great Again,' smacks of the isolationist and perhaps anti-Semite (could just change to anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant, in general) group America First. The more things change. . . ( )
1 vote jhowell | Jan 8, 2017 |
I picked up this book after the 2016 election, with the vague notion that it might be timely, and might speak to the fear of authoritarian governance that the long campaign aroused. Naturally, the book had its own agenda, and had not set out explicitly to meet my own. I might have been satisfied with a vivid fictional political narrative about US civil liberties under siege. But as a proficient and skilled writer, while Roth concerns himself with the larger social world, the life of his story resides in the intimate details of his characters.

The book presents an alternate reality in which Charles A. Lindbergh wins the 1940 presidential election with a populist, isolationist, America First campaign message, one of collaboration with Hitler, that veers into a darker story of a political language that unleashes prejudice and anti-Semitism that roils uneasily just below the surface of American society. Roth handles this adroitly, with impeccable research into the public personae of men like Lindbergh, Walter Winchell, and New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

We experience the gradual abrogation of American freedoms through the eyes of the adult narrator Philip Roth, who reflects from a distance on the terrifying experience of his boyhood self, nine years old when Lindbergh takes office. The heart of the novel is the story of young Roth and his small but brilliantly depicted world of Jewish life in Newark, New Jersey. Caught in a maelstrom of political depravity, and leavened with no small measure of family peculiarity, Roth confronts his terror and confusion. His elders offer little consolation, as they too struggle to cope with this unprecedented threat to their formerly anchored American lives.

I found the book indeed to be timely. Civil liberties ought never be taken for granted. There is no time like the present for an incisive reminder. ( )
4 vote stellarexplorer | Dec 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Philip Roth has written a terrific political novel, though in a style his readers might never have predicted — a fable of an alternative universe, in which America has gone fascist and ordinary life has been flattened under a steamroller of national politics and mass hatreds.
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Paul Berman (Dec 29, 2014)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kooman, KoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Línek, JosefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwart, JannekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618509283, Hardcover)

"What if" scenarios are often suspect. They are sometimes thinly veiled tales of the gospel according to the author, taking on the claustrophobic air of a personal fantasia that can't be shared. Such is not the case with Philip Roth's tour de force, The Plot Against America. It is a credible, fully-realized picture of what could happen anywhere, at any time, if the right people and circumstances come together.

The Plot Against America explores a wholly imagined thesis and sees it through to the end: Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR for the Presidency in 1940. Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle," captured the country's imagination by his solo Atlantic crossing in 1927 in the monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, then had the country's sympathy upon the kidnapping and murder of his young son. He was a true American hero: brave, modest, handsome, a patriot. According to some reliable sources, he was also a rabid isolationist, Nazi sympathizer, and a crypto-fascist. It is these latter attributes of Lindbergh that inform the novel.

The story is framed in Roth's own family history: the family flat in Weequahic, the neighbors, his parents, Bess and Herman, his brother, Sandy and seven-year-old Philip. Jewishness is always the scrim through which Roth examines American contemporary culture. His detractors say that he sees persecution everywhere, that he is vigilant in "Keeping faith with the certainty of Jewish travail"; his less severe critics might cavil about his portrayal of Jewish mothers and his sexual obsession, but generally give him good marks, and his fans read every word he writes and heap honors upon him. This novel will engage and satisfy every camp.

"Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course, no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews." This is the opening paragraph of the book, which sets the stage and tone for all that follows. Fear is palpable throughout; fear of things both real and imagined. A central event of the novel is the relocation effort made through the Office of American Absorption, a government program whereby Jews would be placed, family by family, across the nation, thereby breaking up their neighborhoods--ghettos--and removing them from each other and from any kind of ethnic solidarity. The impact this edict has on Philip and all around him is horrific and life-changing. Throughout the novel, Roth interweaves historical names such as Walter Winchell, who tries to run against Lindbergh. The twist at the end is more than surprising--it is positively ingenious.

Roth has written a magnificent novel, arguably his best work in a long time. It is tempting to equate his scenario with current events, but resist, resist. Of course it is a cautionary tale, but, beyond that, it is a contribution to American letters by a man working at the top of his powers. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:38 -0400)

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In a novel of alternative history, aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, negotiating an accord with Adolf Hitler and accepting his conquest of Europe and anti-Semitic policies.

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