The Plot Against America: A Novel

by Philip Roth

Hardcover, 2004

Call number

FIC ROT

Collection

Publication

Houghton Mifflin (2004), Edition: 1st, 391 pages

Description

Roth creates a mesmerizing alternate world as well, in which Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 presidential election, and Philip, his parents and his brother weather the storm in Newark, N.J. Incorporating Lindbergh's actual radio address in which he accused the British and the Jews of trying to force America into a foreign war, Roth builds an eerily logical narrative that shows how isolationists in and out of government, emboldened by Lindbergh's blatant anti-Semitism (he invites von Rippentrop to the White House, etc.), enact new laws and create an atmosphere of religious hatred that culminates in nationwide pogroms.

Media reviews

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.
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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?
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...

User reviews

LibraryThing member mhgatti
Plot Against America takes place in the early 1940's, in a world where the charismatic (and Nazi-friendly) Charles Lindbergh become president. This obvious isn't very good news for Jewish-Americans. Roth uses his real-life North Jersey upbringing as the backdrop for showing the surreal effects of the Lindbergh presidency on one Jewish neighborhood.

This was the first time I read a novel by Roth, mainly because I've always been a bit scared to tackle some of the subjects of his previous books. Roth is a GREAT WRITER and his books deal with BIG ISSUES so I wasn't very confident that a schlub like me could handle them. If Plot is any indication, I needn't have worried - Roth's novel is very accessible and is written on an extremely personal scale. You go through this nightmare right along with young Phillip's family. You get your news the same way they do - by listening to sympathetic newsmen, by dissecting presidential speeches, and by noticing how, family by family, your block is being torn apart. You feel for Roth's fictional family, you fear for their future and you keep reading to make sure they end up alright. An excellent story of how actions at the national level affects life in even the smallest of neighborhoods.
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LibraryThing member stellarexplorer
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.
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LibraryThing member milkmaidintheshade
My first Roth was American Pastoral. Had I started with his earlier work, I would have dismissed him as an egoist, a misogynist, a jerk who can write, and never picked up another one. This novel would have proven me wrong. It may be about current events or perhaps it is attempt by the author to reconcile with members of the Jewish community he had offended in the past. I read it differently: it is a valentine to his parents and his parents' generation.
The father is a wonderful, innocent, crank who, when discussing the anti-Semitic takeover of his country with his wife-a subject that terrifies and enrages him-restrains himself because "the little one", seven year old Philip, our narrator, is doing his homework in the next room.
The widow that lives downstairs is a stoic, hardworking hero with thick forearms and a kind heart. Other neighbors, Philip's teachers and even the goy, pork chop eating Kentucky farmer and wife, are celebrated as decent, hardworking people both staunch and generous in the face of fear and crisis.
But what makes the book, and made me reconsider my opinion of Roth, is the mother. The conversations she has with her children are like poetry, the poetry of Newark, but poetry nonetheless. "Sandy," she says to her eldest son, who is being forced to decline the honor of dinner at the White House with a Nazi. "What should we do? Do you want to discuss why Daddy feels this way, or should we go to bed now and talk about it in the morning?" Again, in a brilliant scene, on the telephone with a panicked child three states away. He is home alone late at night while the Klan is riding through his community and he hasn't had anything to eat since his after school snack. She responds like the Jewish mother archetype we have all become accustomed to: she feeds him. But here it is written so tenderly we choke up rather than roll our eyes: “I want you to eat breakfast, I want you to use a spoon and a fork and a napkin and a knife. Eat slowly. Use dishes. I will call you back in a half an hour...after you have eaten." She hangs up and swiftly arranges his rescue.
Until this moment, Philip says, he never thought of his parents as “creatures” just like him. He has cherished his stamp collection more than his family and he has plotted to run away, masquerade as a deaf-mute and get a job at a pretzel factory (deaf-mutes are apparently the best pretzel twisters) without a thought of the worry he would be inflicting upon them. Finally, he does see, he does value, he becomes something other than a child and witnessing it so may we.
The Nazis will probably continue to fascinate us as much for the next fifty years as they have the last. I imagine many people picked up this book because of the swastika on the cover. They will be disappointed. This book is not about Nazis, Hitler or the war. It is a coming of age novel, but one of a different sort.
The typical bildungsroman has an orphaned or motherless child at the center of it: David Copperfield, To Kill a Mocking Bird. At the center of this novel, instead, is the author himself: Philip Roth age seven, the "little one", sometimes behaving as if he is an orphan even while he is in the cradle of his family, as projected through a sixty year-long lens. I like to think that the Roth of reality has become less and less a child too as evidenced by the difference between his early and later work. It gives me hope for others like Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, gifted writers who are still too trapped inside themselves to really connect with those who differ from them. It gives me hope for everybody actually, including me.
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LibraryThing member kd9
The Plot Against America is a strong example of why mainstream authors should never attempt science fictional or fantasy tropes. They like the idea of playing with these concepts, but in the end they just bail out of the concept and pretend that everything is back to the "normal" world (including Robert Kennedy as an assassinated martyr).

The book starts out with a very believable and horrifying concept, Charles Lindbergh becomes president of the United States and signs a non-aggression pact with Hitler. The implications of the gradually fascist nature of his presidency affects an eight year old Jewish boy and his family. His cousin goes to Canada and enlists, only to have his leg shattered in Europe. His father has to move from an insurance job to manual labor when he refuses to relocate to Kentucky. Eventually American Jews are killed outright in a reworking of Kristallnatch in Detroit. Even though everything FDR does is lauded and the worst sinners are always Republicans, it does reflect a certain kind of polarization of the Left and Right.

However, the ending is a travesty. All of a sudden Lindbergh disappears -- Jewish plot? killed by the British? taken to Germany by the Germans? It really doesn't matter, because FDR is back in command and all is right with the world. If you believe that, then I have a bridge for sale. I was very, very disappointed in this book. Although there are some very wonderful passages, I would never recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I liked Roth's style, which was eminently readable; I'd even describe the novel as a page-turner. The book's premise is fascinating: an alternate history where Charles Lindbergh defeated Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940 to become president of the United States and came to an accommodation with the Nazis. I also rather liked Roth's central narrative conceit. The book is written as if it were a memoir of an alternate Philip Roth looking back at his experiences from age seven to nine years old, covering the time from Lindbergh's nomination for president to October of 1942. There's a wealth of evocative (if sometimes twisted) historical detail used to ground Roth's vision and some really nice touches, such as having Lindbergh campaign by barnstorming America. That's enough to earn it two stars.

The problem is the workings of Roth's plot, his characterizations of historic Republican politicians and of the anti-war movement reminds me far too much of loony leftist fantasists like Michael Moore and Oliver Stone. Maybe the title should have warned me. Given some of the descriptions of the "laconic" Lindbergh, his mastermind vice-president Wheeler and the publication date of 2004, I suspect we were supposed to see George W Bush and Dick Cheney in his depiction.

But there's a rather savage irony here. The most sinister governmental act in Roth's tale is the forced relocation of 245 Jewish families to the heartland. Ironic, because in reality, exactly at the time Roth sets this, a far vaster racially motivated forced relocation and internment, of Japanese-Americans, was occurring--enacted by Roth's hero, FDR. An injustice not alluded to in Roth's novel or even his historical "postscript" listing the real FDR's acts. Someone who really wanted to write a powerful indictment of tyranny should have pointed that event up, not ignored it. But that wouldn't have suited Roth's simplistic partisan fable.
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LibraryThing member mbergman
I'm not sure what to think of this book. It's certainly an intriguing premise: the Republicans in 1940 convince Charles Lindbergh to run for president; he defeats Roosevelt; and his first act as president is to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler. Narrated by a young Jewish boy living with his parents & older brother in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, it's the kind of book I often find richly rewarding, in which, as a reader, I see how large political forces play out in the intimate day-to-day lives of ordinary people. (As it turns out, the hero of the story, if there is such a thing, turns out to be the boy's unprepossessing mother--one who reminds me of my own mother--who struggles to maintain a sense of normalcy & security in a climate of fear & upheaval.) And yet, at the climax of the story, Roth seems to lose faith in his method & turns to a newsreel-style recounting of the great events, which somehow makes them seem too sudden & less plausible. Nonetheless, it is certainly an interesting book, though with many tough, long sentences to negotiate.… (more)
LibraryThing member whirled
Once again, Philip Roth explores an intriguing premise: what if isolationist and rumoured anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh had beaten Roosevelt in the 1940 US presidential election? He speculates with powerful insight about an America which is slowly, subtly becoming more hostile towards its Jewish citizens. What a pity Roth's formidable skills seem to desert him in the last chapter, which may as well have been, "And then I woke up, and it was all OK after all. What a nutty dream that was!"

Having Roth's nine-year-old fictionalised "self" as a narrator is a mixed blessing. He gives his younger self far too much credit in terms of his understanding of current events, the political climate and adult relationships (young Philip's conflicted feelings about his neighbour Seldon are much more believable). On the plus side, the narrator's youth means that The Plot Against America is less phallocentric than much of Roth's work, with just one masturbation scene, one description of an erect penis and virtually none of his usual sex/gender role guff.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
I first read this in the early aughts when I had a small child, a demanding job, and a limited amount of intellectual energy to lend, and still I really loved it. As I recall what I liked most were the parts that were clearly autobiographical. It was novel to see Roth writing about a good mother (a great mother actually) and a loving father with moral strength. Roth's fictional mothers are largely pathological and overbearing and his fictional fathers, where they exist at all, are like ghosts. As i recall I thought the alternate history element of this book was interesting, but seemed far-fetched.

Fast-forward to 2019 - Not only is this alternate history not far-fetched, it has ceased to be particularly alternate. Sure its not the 1940's. the players are different, but holy mackerel the Lindbergh presidency in this book looks a whole lot like the Trump presidency. Lindbergh even runs on an "America First" platform. The white power rallies in the book are our alt-right rallies. In the book the focus was on antisemitism alone, rather than the current war on all people not white, straight and christian, but wow, did Roth have Americans pegged or what?!?!

I recommend this to all. I didn't love the ending, but I understood the point; there is no ending to this story. A book to be admired, but also a gripping story, beautifully written (as one expects from Philip Roth) about the danger of principles, the uncertainty and joy of childhood, the many kinds of loss, the depth of familial love, the ravages of guilt, and the hate that people choose to embrace so they do not have to face fear. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I am going to call this a masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member technodiabla
Sadly I am giving up on [The Plot Against America]. I find the premise interesting and the writing flawless, yet I am totally unmotivated to finish reading this book. As a work of alternative history I find it pretty good in that it is non sensational; it is believable. That what makes it scary. The gradual creeping of acceptable anti-semitism into American culture could have happened, could still happen, or could happen to any other minority group. Still, something about the characterization or style seems either dry or overly predictable or both. I'm just not interested and my time is too precious to spend more of it slugging through this. I don't think this is a bad book at all-- just not for me. 2.75 stars (at about halfway through).… (more)
LibraryThing member questbird
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!
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LibraryThing member pokarekareana
America in 1940, and the anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh is sworn in as the new US president as American society is gripped by isolationist fervour in response to the war in Europe. Roth is a small boy and witnesses his family, part of a tight-knit Jewish community in New Jersey, torn apart in the aftermath. As their situation deteriorates, unthinkable events turn their lives upside down.

This was such an easy and such a painful book to read. Easy, because it is so well-written and the narrative perspective is very clever; casting a child as the narrator magnifies the sense of bemusement for a community that did not expect to become the target of state-sanctioned racism. The plot took a long time to reach its boiling point, which worked very well because I wasn’t sure if I was just being drawn into a sense of Jewish paranoia, or if there really were anti-Semitic forces at work in government.

I’ve never been a particular fan of ‘alternative-history’ books, but I thought this was very well executed, and I would highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member katiekrug
This is a case of the power of a story being able to carry the reader along through some rather strangled, overbearing prose. That's not to say it's badly written, just that Roth seems to enjoy crafting sentences in as oblique a way as possible. But his creation of an alternate history, one in which Charles Lindbergh, isolationist and Nazi sympathizer, defeats FDR to become President in 1940 and what that means for America and especially its Jewish population, is fascinating. From the personal (a family trip to Washington, DC being overshadowed by hints of anti-Semitism) to the sweeping (a Federal program designed, essentially, to break up Jewish centers of activity in urban areas), Roth explores the consequences of what could have been. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's riveting.… (more)
LibraryThing member Crayne
Philip Roth's 'The Plot Against America' paints a frightening picture of what could have been, should never have been through the eyes of little Philip Roth. A bewildered young Jewish boy growing up in Newark where his childhood is rudely interrupted by the real world, politics and the anti-semitism of an aviation hero and his supporters. At times the book feels so authentic it could have been non-fiction. And yet, at the same time the well-known players in Philip's world of nightmares seem larger than life. Villains, heroes, they are all viewed through the impressionable eyes of childhood, where the simplest things can be unsurmountable obstacles to be feared and avoided. A great book with a clear message: fascism sucks.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
This book imagines what might have happened if Charles Lindbergh had been elected US President in 1940. It centers around Roth's own family, a Jewish family from New Jersey. His father is very concerned that Lindbergh is a pro-Nazi fascist, while Roth's aunt and brother support Lindbergh. This leads to family turmoil that mirrors the turmoil the rest of the country is facing in dealing with the "Jewish question."

Most of the book is believable, and the characters are interesting and likable. Unfortunately, parts of the book become repetitious. Roth's father repeatedly sees problems with the Lindbergh government that others don't see, and Roth, only a child, is constantly torn on who to believe. Once this pattern has been established, the reader doesn't need constant events to reestablish everyone's role in this drama. Roth could have shared just a few key events and had a more tight, engaging story.
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LibraryThing member name99
Not bad at all. You cannot help but read it with one eye on the present. Conversely, a reminder of that the ugly side of America has always been with us.
LibraryThing member mrminjares
A fascinating spin on the consequences of a Charles Lindbergh presidency, this book by Philip Roth explores the alternate history created by the rise of the popular pilot to America's top job. Lindbergh had become famous for making the first solo transatlantic flight, then for being tragically victimized by a kidnapper of his baby son later found decomposing in the nearby woods. Based in part on true events, Lindbergh gave a series of speeches to the American First Committee, which espoused isolationism. His rise to the Presidency occurs when at the Republican nominating convention no nominee wins enough delegates. The dark horse candidate Lindbergh steps forward and to the surprise of many consolidates the disparate delegates and wins the nomination. In his ultimate contest against President Roosevelt seeking a third term, he flies his Spirit of St. Louis plane across the country giving stump speeches and rousing crowds piloting his own plane. His Presidency ultimately oversees the displacement of Jewish citizens, the tragic destruction of the Jewish community and Jewish families, and the literal enforcement of a police state.

Roth explores an interesting alternative history using focusing on a single Jewish family, its obstinate patriotic father, its subservient willing mother, and three very different young children who follow different paths in the light of the turmoil around them. Ultimately we see justice prevail, but not until families are broken up, people die unecessarily, and people learn hard lessons.

I enjoyed the story, although i was not wowed by the writing of Roth as I expected to be. This was my first Roth novel, and although towards the end I found sparks of his literary genius, it took me some time to get there. The plot is itself intriguing, and I am impressed by the research Roth did to base this story as much on reality as he could. But I was a little disappointed by the writing here. Compared to the previous book I read by E.L. Doctorow, I would take another Doctorow book before a Roth book.

But perhaps it is unfair to judge Roth based on this particular book. He is best known for his earlier novels including Portnoy's Complaint, and his more recent novel American Pastoral. For my next Roth novel it may make more sense to take on of these two as my ultimate gauge of his appeal.
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LibraryThing member dbrotman
I really wanted to like this. I've heard good things, and have been a big fan of Philip Roth dating back to Goodbye, Columbus. I loved American Pastoral, Sabbath's Theater, and many, many others. The idea here is also interesting, and I like the way he worked so hard to bring as much fact as he could from the writing of actual historical figures into this what-if version of WWII period US political history (from the point of view of a Jewish boy in Newark not surprisingly named Philip Roth). The problem I have is that his writing has become so self indulgent and long winded. He uses dashes - which enclose extended side-stream discourses which often delve into mostly irrelevant and uninteresting matters - way too much. Where was his editor? Or is he so full of himself now that no one can get him to maintain basic writing disciplines. I agree with others who have described how he could build towards a climate of fear even when there's not much happening to explicitly justify the fear; this was skillfully done. But in the end, I just found myself wanting to get the book over with rather than enjoying the experience.… (more)
LibraryThing member ghr4
This is one of the most engrossing novels I’ve ever read. At its core, Philip Roth’s remarkable alternate history tale, “The Plot Against America,” imagines an America in which aviation hero and fierce isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. Within that framework, Roth focuses on the consequences for Jews in America as Lindbergh’s Nazi sympathizing becomes increasingly evident and a wave of antisemitism stealthily builds, and most particularly the plight of the Jewish community in Newark, New Jersey, largely illustrated by drawing autobiographically on his own family and childhood experiences. The result is a richly drawn and finely detailed narrative presented from the viewpoint of young Philip at seven years old but told by him as an older man with many years of perspective to elucidate the fears that shrouded these events. Roth seamlessly weaves together the day’s historical figures with the incidents that occur at the national, local, and family levels into an all too plausible nightmare scenario. The novel does, however, have a few lighter moments of Philip’s youthful hijinks that serve to occasionally break the tension. I can quibble that Roth reveals the historical end-game a bit too soon, and that the ending is rather abrupt; nevertheless, this is a riveting tour de force.

I must also note the absolute artistry of Roth’s dynamic and complex sentence structure. Like fine works of handicraft, Roth’s sentences, albeit long, are beautiful little works of art, carefully molded and shaped with just the right embellishment and detail, resulting in highly polished nuggets of prose that place the particular events, characters, situations, and emotions in clear and illuminated context.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Interesting premise? Maybe. Interesting book? No. At one point I announced to my husband that this was at least preferable to other Roth books because it wasn't about masturbation. Two pages later: completely gratuitous masturbation scene. Fluid digressions (and an equally pointless extended anti-Boston diatribe) aside, seriously, not a good book. Not at all.… (more)
LibraryThing member lmarin
I agree quite strongly with miaou's review. The idea of the book is fascinating but somehow there is something lacking in the storytelling. I struggled to get to the end, not because it is a harde read but it was often not a very pleasant read. Everything storywise feels a bit cold, grey and distant in a way. In particular, Lindbergh's character never gets much development. Perhaps some of this is intentional?… (more)
LibraryThing member markbarnes
An enjoyable read as Roth theorises what might have happened had America kept out of WW2, and elected a Fascist sympathiser in place of Roosevelt. I find it difficult to understand the "it couldn't have happened here" comments that so often accompany this book. Those who believe that clearly have understood neither history, nor men's hearts. The US treatment of Japanese during the period described shows how those perceived as enemies were in fact treated, and Roth's description of the persecution of the Jews does not exceed that directed at the Japanese. All that would be required to encourage such persecution would be the belief by some in authority (not even a majority) that the Jews were a threat. Clearly that is not beyond the realm of possibility. It is true that the final chapters do stretch credulity - but more because Roth tries to 'undo' the plot to make it fit into modern America. For me, at least, the narrative would be even more powerful if the threads had been left to unravel. Other than that, you do feel as though Roth was really there, and the events he describes are true. This is one of the few modern works of fiction that has an accessible depth. Whether you agree the plot is credible or not, you are forced into thinking about what would stop it 'happening here'. That alone makes the book well worthwhile.… (more)
LibraryThing member Talbin
In The Plot Against America, author Philip Roth asks, "What if Franklin Roosevelt had not won the election in 1940? What if Charles Lindbergh did?" Roth establishes this alternate history, then traces its affects on the fictional Roth family - father Herman, mother Bess, older brother Sandy and younger brother Philip. As a Jewish family in a largely Jewish neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the Roth's believe they are living as all Americans do. They participate fully in American life, working hard to be an average nuclear family. Although secular - like most of their neighbors - they strongly identify with their Jewish-American heritage. Like most young boys in the late 1930's, both Philip and Sandy idolize the aviator Charles Lindbergh. Sandy, an aspiring artist, has done several portraits of him. Philip, a stamp collector, prizes his Lindbergh stamps. Their parents are not as smitten, however, especially after Lindbergh makes several trips to Nazi Germany. However, things change when Lindbergh is nominated as the Republican candidate for President and eventually defeats Roosevelt. Lindbergh refuses to enter WWII, signing non-aggression agreements with both Germany and Japan. Newark's Jewish community, along with Philip's parents, become wary as new programs are announced to "Americanize" the Jews. Over the next two years, things go from bad to worse for Jews in America.

Roth's dystopian vision is somewhat unevenly rendered in The Plot Against America. He switches between narrating the alternate history with describing the effects it has on the Roth family in particular. I found the "historical" descriptions to be overly lengthy and sometimes superfluous, but I was drawn in to the accounts of the Roth's life. For me, Roth did not find a good balance between the history and the personal. I believe this comes from the narrative style that Roth chose to use in this novel. When writing the historical aspects, he tended to use several very long sentences, all in a row. I found this to be monotonous, as if the author was a history teacher droning on at the front of a class. After glancing through a few of his other books (this is the only one I've read completely), I can see this is not his usual style. I believe he was using the style to lull the reader into a false sense of security, rather like many of the citizens of the novel were. However, for me, I found that this style didn't work: I tended to skim these sections so that I could get to the "meat" of the story - the story of the Roth family.

I also thought that this could have been a much more chilling tale. The Jewish neighborhood of the novel is large and seemed to have been fairly isolated from some of the more shocking events he describes happening in other parts of the country. The Roth's hear about them but are mostly not personally affected by them. While this could have given the novel a sense of foreboding, it didn't, mainly because his narrative style (as described above) gave me a sense of distance from the action.

Overall, I thought The Plot Against America had an intriguing premise but was unevenly executed.
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LibraryThing member kirstiecat
This is the Philip Roth book that has been recommended to me the most and the second one I've read by him. It's a high 4 stars (meaning, it's more like 4 1/2 stars if Goodreads were to allow it...I personally find the five star rating system a little too limiting and would rather the rating be out of 10. This would score a 9/10) The novel is very worth reading for both it's imagination and it's history. In fact, at the start of it, Roth takes a very nonfiction historical tone which is heightened by the fact he seems to be writing it as if it were his autobiography. The book seems historically accurate and personally plausible right up until the time in which Roth imagines an alternate future in which FDR loses out on a presidential bid to Charles Lindbergh, the so called "Lone Eagle" Nazi sympathizer.

Quite honestly, if Roth had written the book with a sense of fiction immediately, it probably wouldn't have been as jarring and as horrifying but to really get into the groove of the historically accurate account of the late 30s early 40s where antisemitism was unfortunately growing in America and to see what could have happened, how intense this hatred could have grown with a leader beholden to Hitler made it seem like a realistic possible alternate ending.

The thing is, Americans have always unfortunately been fueled by a sense of famous popularity, which Lindbergh was for his flight prowess. In addition, we were still struggling quite a bit economically and many areas of the country were still seeing the after effects of the Great Depression. What Lindbergh does is create a surge in the notion of blind patriotism and nationalism. He wants every American citizen, including those who happen to be Jewish, to recognize that their allegiance should be first and foremost to America and not to their culture or race. Because of this, he manages to convince even rabbis that they should support him as he will keep America out of war.

All of this is, in fact, quite honestly what Lindbergh wanted in actuality. He just (thank heavens!) wasn't elected to destroy the bonds of the Jewish family and raise the antisemitism the country was already unfortunately experiencing. The US still made many mistakes when it came to WWII (Japanese internment camps being the largest one imo. and I still don't feel comfortable with the way we dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) These are actions that America must bear with a heavy heart and hopefully history WILL do it's best to remember or it will possibly happen again.

But, we did need to be in the war to stop Germany and though I thought some aspects of the book preposterous (mainly the Lindbergh-Fuhrer baby conspiracy and war with Canada), I felt overall Roth has a grasp on the sense of history and the way it can flirt with surreality in a sort of metaphysical universe that is both shocking and devastating. You will learn from this book in many ways.


I leave you with one quote that I think sums up all that is inside this book. It is the quote I will take with me to my grave. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

pg. 296 "It's so heartbreaking, violence, when it's in a house-like seeing the clothes in a tree after an explosion. You may be prepared to see death but not the clothes in the tree."
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LibraryThing member andystardust
Roth imagines a Lindbergh Republican win over FDR in the 1940 presidential election and its effect on the Roth family in New Jersey. Totally absorbing and even frightening in 2009, this must have been dynamite when it was first published in 2004, given the second Bush White House win. Roth raises the stakes in his narrative very gradually, as both the novel's characters and the reader expect the Nazis to come knocking at the family's door at any moment, only to find that what happens instead is far more sinister. Unfortunately, the careful work Roth does to marry the personal story of the Roth family to the larger, political dynamics occurring internationally gives out in the novel's last few chapters. It felt to me as though Roth lost interest in the project, and the conclusion, which suggests that reason may prevail, seems less convincing than I would have liked. Still, I appreciate the postscript, which includes a bibliography and a reprint of Lindbergh's actual speech at the America First Committee rally in Des Moines on September 11, 1941.… (more)
LibraryThing member tmph
All relatively plausible. Just wish it wasn't thru the eyes of an 8 year old.

Pages

391

ISBN

0618509283 / 9780618509287

UPC

046442509282
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