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The Plot Against America: A Novel [Hardcover]

Philip Roth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 5 2004
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 virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty.
What followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by the 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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From Publishers Weekly

During his long career, Roth has shown himself a master at creating fictional doppelgängers. In this stunning novel, he 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 Ribbentrop to the White House, etc.), enact new laws and create an atmosphere of religious hatred that culminates in nationwide pogroms.Historical figures such as Walter Winchell, Fiorello La Guardia and Henry Ford inhabit this chillingly plausible fiction, which is as suspenseful as the best thrillers and illustrates how easily people can be persuaded by self-interest to abandon morality. The novel is, in addition, a moving family drama, in which Philip's fiercely ethical father, Herman, finds himself unable to protect his loved ones, and a family schism develops between those who understand the eventual outcome of Lindbergh's policies and those who are co-opted into abetting their own potential destruction. Many episodes are touching and hilarious: young Philip experiences the usual fears and misapprehensions of a pre-adolescent; locks himself into a neighbor's bathroom; gets into dangerous mischief with a friend; watches his cousin masturbating with no comprehension of the act. In the balance of personal, domestic and national events, the novel is one of Roth's most deft creations, and if the lollapalooza of an ending is bizarre with its revisionist theory about the motives behind Lindbergh's anti-Semitism, it's the subtext about what can happen when government limits religious liberties in the name of the national interest that gives the novel moral authority. Roth's writing has never been so direct and accessible while retaining its stylistic precision and acute insights into human foibles and follies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–When Charles Lindbergh, Republican candidate in the 1940 presidential race, defeats popular FDR in a landslide, pollsters scramble for explanations–among them that, to a country weary of crisis and fearful of becoming involved in another European war, the aviator represents "normalcy raised to heroic proportions." For the Roth family, however, the situation is anything but normal, and heroism has a different meaning. As the anti-Semitic new president cozies up to the Third Reich, right-wing activists throughout the nation seize the moment. Most citizens, enamored of isolationism and lost in hero worship, see no evil–but in the Roths' once secure and stable Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey, the world is descending into a nightmare of confusion, fear, and unpredictability. The young narrator, Phil, views the developing crisis through the lens of his family life and his own boyish concerns. His father, clinging tenaciously to his trust in America, loses his confidence painfully and incrementally. His mother tries to shield the children from her own growing fear. An aunt, brother, and cousin respond in different ways, and the family is divided. But though the situation is grim, this is not a despairing tale; suspenseful, poignant, and often humorous, it engages readers in many ways. It prompts them to consider the nature of history, present times, and possible futures, and can lead to good discussions among thoughtful readers and teachers. Bibliographic sources, notes on historical figures, and documentation are included.–Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The plot sickens Oct. 7 2004
Format:Hardcover
While I haven't read everything Roth has written, I'm familiar enough with his work to note that this book is off the beaten path, even for him. If you read the premise and were turned off, don't be. This kind of material in anyone else's hands would be a disaster, but masterbuilder Roth does wonders with it. Basically he creates an alternate world, one in which Lindbergh is president in 1940. Using Lindbergh's anti-Semitism, Roth builds a scenario that is frightening and at the same time, eye-opening. Funny at times, and not without the human touch, this is one you'll want to read.
Would also recommend another book, different with equally entertaining, titled BARK OF THE DOGWOOD. Funny and disturbing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As a long-time lover of Philip Roth's books, I was a little surprised to find he'd written a book of political allegory. That's because there's a passage in I MARRIED A COMMUNIST that discusses and crystallizes in my mind the idea that art and politics are in opposition. So I bought the book and read it to find out what the deal was and though I enjoyed it, I do not think it is Roth's best. As for the politic overhang and how it relates to modern events, I take Roth at face value that this book is not a commentary on the Bush administration. I was up in the air on this point up until the end when Roth just makes the entire Lindbergh mess disappear with an off- handed, bizarre, Weekly World News like plotline. It's impossible to read the mind of the artist, but maybe he did this because he realized at the end that this book was less about what happens to a country when its plunged into chaos and more about what happens to people and families, the characters in a book, when they face their own personal chaos. That's where the heart of the book is, in the characters. I think the author knew that. Most of the political threads end in an off-handed way. Sandy, with all his Just Folks venom, fades when he discovers girls. Aunt Evelyn and the Rabbi leave when Mr. Roth makes them and though the Rabbi makes a play for revenge, he doesn't follow through. This goes on, from Alvin to Walter Winchell to Philip's uncle to the friend who leaves for Canada and on. The political conflicts are dropped one by one with minimal explanation or enlightenment. At the end, Roth saves enlightenment for the characters, mostly Philip, his mother and Seldon. Philip's mother becomes the hero. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Creepily Plausible Jan. 6 2008
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The premise of this book is unusual, and did not appeal to me before I read the book. Roth invents an alternate history where Charles Lindbergh is elected President of the United States in 1940, defeating FDR. Roth then retells what is presumably his own life story, beginning when he was a seven year old Jewish boy living in New Jersey. Needless to say, things do not go well. President Lindbergh cozies up to the Nazis, the United States withdraws support from England in World War II, and, most importantly for the story, Jews are persecuted here in the United States.

This book is not just an idle story, or at least not in my view. It is a cautionary tale about what can happen, and how easy it is for a society to turn to the dark side. Of course, it is fiction, so it does not prove anything, but the fact that the story seems so plausible makes it very scary indeed. Given my personal views, I felt a bit like I was reading about the Bush administration!

Finally, whatever you may think of the odd premise, the book is well-written and fun to read. I highly recommend it.

p.s. I stole the title for my review from the New York Times review, but it is absolutely accurate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Live In A Nightmare Aug. 12 2008
Format:Paperback
Charles Lindbergh is best known as the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic. However, he was also a noted isolationist and, prior to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour, opposed any American involvement in the Second World War. Following the conviction of a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann, for the murder of Charles Jr, the Lindbergh family spend some time abroad, and become regular visitors to Germany in the late 1930s. Lindbergh refers to Hitler as "undoubtedly a great man", and receives the Service Cross of the German Eagle in 1938 from Hermann Goring. He continues to defend Nazi Germany after the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland and - in a speech in Des Moines, in September 1941 - identifies "the Jewish race" as one of the most influential groups in pushing America towards war. These groups are looking to enter the war, Lindbergh claims, "for reasons which are not American".

In real life, of course, Lindbergh's views made no real difference. America declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy after the attack on Pearl Harbour and, having once been a revered hero, Lindbergh fell rapidly from grace. He and his wife were widely viewed with distrust and even hostility - Charles was unwelcome in the Air Corps and work, for a time, work proved difficult to come by. However, things work out differently in "The Plot Against America" - which is probably best described as an alternate history book. In it, Roth imagines what his life might have been like if Lindbergh had stood for - and won - the American Presidency. However, rather than following the people in power, it imagines how Lindbergh's policies might have affected the Roth family.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Metaphor for the European Jewish Experience
The Plot Against America is a fictional device that provides American readers with a mental exercise to help understand what it was like to be a Jew during the rise of the Nazis in... Read more
Published on Dec 6 2008 by Donald Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars AS THE WORLD TURNS...
I loved this book, as it was a wonderful melding of two genres, that of alternate history to that of family drama. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2008 by Lawyeraau
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but lacking in some areas also
It's taken me a long time to sit down and write this review. Opinions are divided on this book, and I wanted to think through how I really felt. Read more
Published on June 23 2005 by Ondre
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic!
This is truly a wonderful surprise and the second best purchase I made this year after THE LOSERS CLUB: Complete Restored Edition. In THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, Mr. Read more
Published on May 28 2005 by Dillon
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed yet educated
This is the first time I had read anything by Mr. Roth. I found the book to be very slow almost trying to read. Many times I almost put the book away however I chose to continue. Read more
Published on April 27 2005
4.0 out of 5 stars America and the great plot
I should have read the jacket flap before buying this, but nevertheless enjoyed it. I've read two other books by Roth previously and liked them. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2005 by Randy States
5.0 out of 5 stars America the . . .
I should have read the jacket flap before buying this, but nevertheless enjoyed it. I've read two other books by Roth previously and liked them. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2005 by Randy States
4.0 out of 5 stars Roth is at it again
Of the three books our book club recently read, we were most impressed with this latest Roth work (the other two were "Reading Lolita" and "Bark of the Dogwood). Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2005 by Robert Crandle, Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars plot thickens
Although Roth denies it, I can't help but believe that he uses this incident as a metaphor for current-day America, a nation led by those who care not one ounce for certain sectors... Read more
Published on Dec 30 2004 by Peter Rabando
4.0 out of 5 stars Roth's latest
First the good news: the "what if" concept of a Nazi sympathizing American government led by Charles Lindbergh is wonderfully executed and eerily plausible. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2004 by Darien McIntosh
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