Dewey Defeats Truman

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Overview

A masterful retelling of a legend and famous headline of modern American history—Harry Truman’s upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential election.

Set in Dewey’s hometown of Owosso, Michigan, this is the captivating story of a local love triangle that mirrors the national election contest. As the voters must decide between the candidates, so must Anne Macmurray choose between two suitors: an ardent United Auto Workers organizer and his polar opposite, a ...

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Dewey Defeats Truman

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Overview

A masterful retelling of a legend and famous headline of modern American history—Harry Truman’s upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential election.

Set in Dewey’s hometown of Owosso, Michigan, this is the captivating story of a local love triangle that mirrors the national election contest. As the voters must decide between the candidates, so must Anne Macmurray choose between two suitors: an ardent United Auto Workers organizer and his polar opposite, a wealthy young Republican lawyer who’s running for the state senate. Weaving a tapestry of small-town secrets, the people of Owosso ready themselves for the fame that is bound to shower down upon them after Dewey’s “sure thing” victory. But as the novel—and history—move toward election night, we watch the townspeople, along with Anne and her suitors, have their fates rearranged in a climax filled with suspense, chagrin and unexpected joy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Thomas Mallon's Dewey Defeats Truman:

“A warm, touching, and richly textured novel; a classic American movie filmed in glorious prose deluxe.”
Entertainment Weekly
 
“A finely textured web. . . . Like Shakespeare’s summery comedies, the novel is about love’s madness. . . . Effortlessly summons the feel of a bygone era. . . . A lovely meditation on the interplay between past and present.”
—Jay Parini, The New York Times Book Review 
 
“Charming . . . Mallon is a master of detail about a place and a time.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“A beautifully written and absorbing novel, with richly drawn characters and a wealth of bubbling plots.”
Detroit Free Press

“It’s fueled by a sense of period detail so strong that reading it seems at times like paging through an old high school yearbook . . . I enjoyed the wit and precision with which Mallon presents this world.”
Boston Sunday Globe

“Thomas Mallon is a smart, inventive, prolific writer . . . What interests him is not history per se but the way in which large events touch and alter the lives of ordinary, unknown people.”
The Washington Post

“Mallon’s prose is always rich and economical. . . . Dewey Defeats Truman is the kind of novel that restores meaning to the present by recovering the past.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] beautifully controlled novel. . . . Mallon has so meticulously re-created a time and place that even trivial data has the force of nothing less than truth. . . . Mallon’s complicated meditation on the trials of private and public identity is beautifully fashioned. Its tale of yesteryear tells America a little bit about what it is today.”
Publishers Weekly

Dwight Garner

There were a lot of things to dislike about Thomas E. Dewey, the 1948 Republican presidential candidate. There was his fussy mustache, for example, and his elevator shoes. There was the way he had his press secretary announce his candidacy, as if ù as Thomas Mallon writes in Dewey Defeats Truman, his new historical novel ù "it was an afternoon appointment." And as disappointing as Dewey could seem from afar, he was even worse in person. "What they said about him was probably true," Mallon writes. "You had to know him really well to dislike him."

All that said, you don't get to know Thomas E. Dewey well enough in Dewey Defeats Truman to really work up much animosity toward him. In fact, he drops into the novel only once or twice, and Truman not at all. Instead, Mallon keeps his attention relentlessly focused on the residents of Dewey's hometown in Owosso, Michigan, in the months before the election, particularly on a love triangle between a young bookstore clerk (and budding writer) named Anne Macmurray and her two suitors: Jack, a driven UAW organizer, and Peter, a swaggering young Republican politician. This sounds like a corny set-up, and it is. Jack and Peter, introvert and extrovert, woo Anne in a grindingly predictable fashion; just when you think she's finally settled on one or the other, some Aunt Bea-ish matron will step in with a wink and say something like: "Let's give Peter an inning, too. I'm having a dinner party a week from tonight, and I'll put him across from you." (All that's missing are the exclamation points.) This is where I began penciling the word groan into the margins, and I soon found myself unable to stop.

One problem with Dewey Defeats Truman is that there's not much else going on besides this twee romantic drama. The candidates are absent from the book, and while the townsfolk are constantly having brow-furrowing discussions about the election's "issues," the discussion remains superficial ù this is a novel that doesn't feel grounded by the force of ideas. Mallon tries to inject some local political drama by having Owosso's residents debate the construction of an ecologically-unfriendly "heritage walk" in Dewey's honor, but no one seems to get very worked up about that, either.

Thomas Mallon is an estimable writer and critic; his regular essays in GQ are tart and savvy, and his last novel, Henry and Clara, was praised by none other than John Updike as one of the best books of 1995. I didn't read that earlier novel, but I found Dewey Defeats Truman surprisingly (almost shockingly) frictionless and frothy. Reading it, you feel like you've been promised a scotch, but handed a root beer. -- Salon

Michael Gorra
It's fueled by a sense of period detail so strong that reading it seems at times like paging through an old high school yearbook....I enjoyed the wit and precision with which Mallon presents this world. -- The Boston Sunday Globe
Mary Hannibal
Mallon's prose is always rich and economical...Dewey Defeats Truman is the kind of novel that restores meaning to the present by recovering the past. -- The San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345805560
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/23/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 990,656
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Mallon is the author of eight novels, including Henry and Clara, Fellow Travelers, and Watergate. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008

    One of the Cleverest Novels I've Ever Read

    Don't let the Salon review posted on this site fool you. Thomas Mallon's DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN is an almost scientific study of the political mood of the United States in 1948. If politics is personal, the personal is also political, and Mallon is very deft at showing how people's fundamental beliefs affect their behavior. This book is very funny, largely because most of the characters are in complete denial about Truman's popularity. The theme of this book is overconfidence. It also strikes me that this is a work of psychological realism. Many readers won't be able to get past what might be perceived as SATURDAY EVENING POST dialogue: Think of Norman Rockwell in prose--but I saw, behind that, a study of people who use a formal type of speech which is now almost extinct. I feel quite sure people in the milieu described in this book would and did talk this way. I've certainly met a number of people who still do talk this way. Like Anne McMurray, one of the main characters, I once worked in a book store in a little Republican town. Mallon knows what he's writing about. It's an historically accurate, intense book. It touches on suicide and its aftermath (largely in reference to a bestseller of 1948, Ross Lockridge's RAINTREE COUNTY.) It deals with the paranoia gay people had to deal with in that era. It also brings to life, if you will, the atmosphere of death still lingering just after the carnage of World War Two. This book is a stunning recreation of an era.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

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