Book Review: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

March 4, 2014

About:
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a fictional book set in America 1940s. This is the first Philip Roth book I have read, and I am looking forward to read much more.

  • 391 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400079497

Book Review The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

 

My rating for The Plot Against America4

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Thoughts:
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is an alternative history novel which asks an question: what if America had elected a fascist government before World War II?

The novel is told from the point of view of a young Philip Roth from Newark, NJ and his Jewish family who refuse to believe that such a thing could happen in America and see their lives fall apart. The questions raised by this novel are excellent, and I would highly recommend it to any book club in need of an interesting book to discuss.

What makes this book great is that the perspective is told from that of a little kid. Mr. Roth examines a world gone mad through the eyes of a young boy and… he nails it! I don’t know if part of the book is a memoir or not, it certainly seems like it, but the author does look back at 1940s Newark with nostalgia and love.

This book came to me at a most opportune time, I just finished reading the excellent Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund by Arnie Bernstein  which examines the American Nazi movement at the time that Roth’s novel taking place. Those two books which complement one another tremendously (the same characters make appearances in both) have really opened my eyes to the realization of how many people were on the wrong side of history.

While I enjoyed the majority of the book, which I thought was brilliant, the last 50 pages lost me. Somehow it seems that Mr. Roth was rushing to finish this excellent book, when I would have gladly read another 800 pages in the same vain.

About:
Philip Roth, a Jewish child in Newark NJ, observes the world around him as Charles Lindbergh, known anti-Semite, aviation superstar and supporter of a certain Austrian madman, is elected President of the United States. Lindbergh is popular in the American south and Midwest, as well as endorsed by popular conservative Rabbi Bengelsdorf and wins easily over Roosevelt who is running for an unprecedented third term.

The Roth family starts to feel like outsiders, anti-Semities no longer feel they need to hide, Lindbergh signs a treaty with Hitler to stay out of the war and relocates whole Jewish families to the Midwest. Meanwhile, famed reporter and radio personality, Walter Winchell, runs against Lindbergh for the highest office in the country.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I borrowed this book.
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7 Comments

  • techeditor March 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Maybe people think, if it’s a Roth book, it must be brilliant. I don’t agree. I didn’t think this was brilliant. But to each his own.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book March 6, 2014 at 9:15 am

      I thought it was brilliant because this horrifying alternative reality was something that could have actually happen. When people ask me if I think that the Holocaust could happen again, I say “yes, in the blink of an eye”. That being said, I grew up in New Jersey, so am intimately familiar with the setting, culture and attitude – maybe that’s what made the difference for me.

  • Andrew T. Kuligowski March 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    This was my first Philip Roth book. I was very impressed – through an alternate history, Roth presented a picture of how a reasonable society could fall under the spell of fascism. (I thought the ending a tad weak, but sometimes it’s hard to get out of alternate histories … and that’s small criticism of what I found to be an excellent work.)

    I hadn’t fully through through the “Kill a Mockingbird”-esque “viewing through the eyes of a child” aspect, but now that you slam me over the head with it … you’re right!! And it was well done.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book March 6, 2014 at 9:13 am

      I also found the end weak, but overall I really enjoyed the book. As you mentioned, the scary part in the book is how easily this all could have happened.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) March 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve had this book for years, but for some reason haven’t read it. It does sound like it would make for a good discussion. I’m curious about the young narrator.

  • Laurie C March 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I was a big Philip Roth fan in my younger days, but didn’t end up keeping up with all the Zuckerman books, so I was glad to read this one (actually, I listened to it on audio) and I thought it was excellent. I would recommend The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon as another novel of alternative history for anyone who liked this one!

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