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The Plot Against America: A Novel Hardcover – Oct 1 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; New title edition (Oct. 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618509283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618509287
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 862 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #407,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
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 Europe. It's one of the most powerful novels that I have read in many years.

The story develops brilliantly in the context of one family, Philip Roth's, and their connections to a few friends and neighbors. The Roths are a surrogate for the entire Jewish community. As such, the characters and surroundings have a strong non-fiction resonance that provides an edge over most novels.

To make way for the metaphor, Mr. Roth has to move history around in improbable ways . . . by eliminating FDR as president in 1940 and replacing FDR with a remote and Nazi-cooperating Charles Lindbergh. Those aspects of the novel are so contrived that it's hard to take them seriously . . . except that you will feel the chill of threat into your very bone marrow from this story.

If you are thinking about reading the story to think about "what if", I think you are making a mistake. The "what if" isn't all that intriguing.

If you want to read the story as a horror tale, that's the right reason for this book.

A reader can learn a lot from this novel. Place yourself in the shoes of each of the major characters and ask yourself what you would have done. If you are honest, you'll recognize how easily we are alternatively swayed and cowed by events and people around us. It's an important lesson that Mr. Roth provides very well.

As usual for a Philip Roth book, the sentences and descriptions are powerful and effective. He also keeps you off balance with his plotting. Although some "what nexts" are pretty easy to anticipate, others aren't . . . and that makes you more and more interested in what happens to these fictional Roths.
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