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The Plot Against America (2004)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,504206841 (3.72)468
When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial "understanding" with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and whose virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty. What followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family-and for a million such families all over the country-during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.… (more)
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    It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (TLCrawford)
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» See also 468 mentions

English (175)  French (9)  Dutch (5)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (2)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
Alarmingly prescient. I had to read this brilliant book is short sittings because it produced such an overwhelming sense of dread and familiarity.

I am, however, not sure how I feel about the ending yet. I need time to think about it.

Regardless, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. ( )
  paroof | Nov 27, 2022 |
Alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh is elected President in 1940, defeating Franklin Roosevelt. Lindbergh travels to Iceland and signs a pact with Hitler, vowing to keep the United States out of World War II. Lindbergh’s administration enacts increasingly restrictive policies against Jewish-Americans, leading to civil unrest. The story centers on a Jewish family living in Newark, New Jersey, and is based on the author’s own family. Protagonist Philip is the younger son of Bess and Herman Roth. His older brother, Sandy, is enrolled in the “Just Folks” program, where he travels to Kentucky to live with a farming family and is introduced to “heartland values.” The plot portrays Philip’s rising confusion and fear over how his family and neighbors are treated due to changes in the country’s political environment.

Those who know WWII history will be aware that Lindbergh was one of the primary spokesmen for the America First Committee, an isolationist movement with anti-Semitic tendencies. In the Postscript, Roth includes the full text of Lindbergh’s (real) 1941 speech in DesMoines, entitled Who Are the War Agitators, which lends credence to the book’s premise. He also includes the history of what actually transpired, citing the key players he has used in his narrative, such as Henry Ford, Burton K. Wheeler, Franklin Roosevelt, Walter Winchell, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. A basic knowledge of WWII history is helpful.

The plot stays with the family narrative for the bulk of the novel, focusing on what happens to Philip and his relatives. Toward the end, Roth relies on summaries of newsreels to tell the larger story. I did not find this part as effective, but it was probably necessary, since the nine-year-old Philip would not have been exposed to worldwide events. This book serves as a warning against electing a leader who marginalizes a segment of society. Recommended to fans of speculative fiction. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
The book would have probably been a little more enjoyable if I had known the true history of the time period. However, compared to his other works, the writing was just not as enjoyable as it could have been. ( )
  kayfeif | Jul 7, 2022 |
I'm not a fan of dystopian novels so I did not look forward to this book. I had long ago been a fan of Roth, especially Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint. I've read several more but gave up entirely with Sabbath's Theater - too much self indulgent pornography. Since this was my book club's selection I persisted. It reminded me why I liked Roth long ago.

This book works on two levels, the family and the country. The better part is the family. Roth loves to use his real family as a jumping off point. Yes Roth grew up in Newark and his father did work for Metropolitan Life. And one of the main characters is a youngster named Philip. How much of the rest is real and how much is it fiction was what Roth probably wanted us always wondering. I found I enjoyed it more when I put that question aside. What Roth captured well is how a family is many things and how real life forces pulls it apart and pulls it together. That's what Roth is best at. He even enjoys poking "fun" at himself. His Philip is filled with insecurity and guilt and easily seen as the nebbish in the family. Stamp collecting was his thing.

The less satisfying part is the depiction of the country. There's lots of anti-Semitism. It's everywhere, especially Henry Ford. But what steers the novel is the great man theory of history. According to that theory everything depends on whether a great man appears. In this case it's Charles Lindbergh who challenges the aging FDR in the 1936 election on a keep us out of war platform and let's make nice with the Nazis. He wins and the country goes downhill from there. We're rescued when Lindbergh dies in a plane crash and the country rediscovers FDR. That did not work for me. I decided to look at Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here written in 1935. He also sees the election of 1936 as the turning point but that's almost the only thing in common with Roth's telling of the potential events.

If you like characters read Roth. If you want to understand a more real underlying forces based approach to how it might happen and don't mind cartoony characters read Lewis. Read both if you have the time. I also recommend HBO's mini series. It stays pretty true to the book and features unusually casting of Winona Ryder and John Turturro. Curiously they change the family name from Roth to Levin. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Jul 5, 2022 |
This was a phenomenal book. I never would have thought a book like this would hold my attention.

This is the story of the Roth family as they deal with the outcome of an alternate history where known anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR and becomes the 33rd President of the US. Once in office, Lindbergh begins to slowly turn America into a fascist country. The Jewish people of the US are to blame for everything and they must be taken care of according to the government. Told from the perspective of a young Jewish boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey as he describes ways in which his family felt the waves of anti-Semitism in their every day lives.

The reasoning behind Lindbergh's election was very interesting and to see the work that went into making him President in this story was very well done. This is definitely a book I would recommend. ( )
  Micareads | Jun 21, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (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)
 
Young Philip's greatest epiphany is to recognise the difference between history as taught in school - harmless and inevitable - and history as it's lived through, "the relentless unforeseen". His novel is a different kind of history again, an imagined past which, if we learn from it, might save us from a calamitous future. It's not Roth's funniest novel (and there's hardly any sex). But in its sweep and chutzpah, it ranks with his great trilogy of the late-90s. Isn't it time they gave him the Nobel?
added by danielx | editThe Guardian, Blake Morrison (Jan 1, 2004)
 
Philip Roth's huge, inflammatory, painfully moving new novel draws upon a persistent theme in American life: "It can't happen here." That's how we express our longing to believe that our ideals are too strong to be shoved aside by some cruder impulse, and our nagging fear that our democracy is too fragile to withstand assault by the muscle of fascism...
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kooman, KoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Línek, JosefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silver, RonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwart, JannekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To S.F.R.
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Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.
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Et je n'avais jamais aussi bien compris à quel point la vanité éhontée des imbéciles peut faire le malheur d'autrui.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial "understanding" with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and whose virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty. What followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family-and for a million such families all over the country-during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.

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