The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth

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Overview

Never more relevant than now, this national bestseller will challenge all who believe that “it can't happen here.”
 
 “A terrific political novel . . . Sinister, vivid, dreamlike . . . creepily plausible. . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened.” — The New York Times Book Review
 
In an extraordinary feat of narrative invention, Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic aviator and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. Shortly thereafter, Lindbergh negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.
 
For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America–and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400079490
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/27/2005
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 43,042
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.87(d)
Lexile: 1640L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians’ Prize for “the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003–2004.” Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. He died in 2018.

Hometown:

Connecticut

Date of Birth:

March 19, 1933

Place of Birth:

Newark, New Jersey

Education:

B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

Read an Excerpt

1 June 1940–October 1940 Vote for Lindbergh or Vote for War FEAR PRESIDES over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews. When the first shock came in June of 1940—the nomination for the presidency of Charles A. Lindbergh, America's international aviation hero, by the Republican Convention at Philadelphia—my father was thirty-nine, an insurance agent with a grade school education, earning a little under fifty dollars a week, enough for the basic bills to be paid on time but for little more. My mother—who'd wanted to go to teachers' college but couldn't because of the expense, who'd lived at home working as an office secretary after finishing high school, who'd kept us from feeling poor during the worst of the Depression by budgeting the earnings my father turned over to her each Friday as efficiently as she ran the household—was thirty-six. My brother, Sandy, a seventh-grader with a prodigy's talent for drawing, was twelve, and I, a third-grader a term ahead of himself—and an embryonic stamp collector inspired like millions of kids by the country's foremost philatelist, President Roosevelt—was seven. We lived in the second-floor flat of a small two-and-a-half-family house on a tree-lined street of frame wooden houses with red-brick stoops, each stoop topped with a gable roof and fronted by a tiny yard boxed in with a low-cut hedge. The Weequahic neighborhood had been built on farm lots at the undeveloped southwest edge of Newark just after World War One, some half dozen of the streets named, imperially, for victorious naval commanders in the Spanish-American War and the local movie house called, after FDR's fifth cousin—and the country's twenty-sixth president—the Roosevelt. Our street, Summit Avenue, sat at the crest of the neighborhood hill, an elevation as high as any in a port city that rarely rises a hundred feet above the level of the tidal salt marsh to the city's north and east and the deep bay due east of the airport that bends around the oil tanks of the Bayonne peninsula and merges there with New York Bay to flow past the Statue of Liberty and into the Atlantic. Looking west from our bedroom's rear window we could sometimes see inland as far as the dark treeline of the Watchungs, a low-lying mountain range fringed by great estates and affluent, sparsely populated suburbs, the extreme edge of the known world—and about eight miles from our house. A block to the south was the working-class town of Hillside, whose population was predominantly Gentile. The boundary with Hillside marked the beginning of Union County, another New Jersey entirely. We were a happy family in 1940. My parents were outgoing, hospitable people, their friends culled from among my father's associates at the office and from the women who along with my mother had helped to organize the Parent-Teacher Association at newly built Chancellor Avenue School, where my brother and I were pupils. All were Jews. The neighborhood men either were in business for themselves—the owners of the local candy store, grocery store, jewelry store, dress shop, furniture shop, service station, and delicatessen, or the proprietors of tiny industrial job shops over by the Newark-Irvington line, or self-employed plumbers, electricians, housepainters, and boilermen—or were foot-soldier salesmen like my father, out every day in the city streets and in people's houses, peddling their wares on commission. The Jewish doctors and lawyers and the successful merchants who owned big stores downtown lived in one-family houses on streets branching off the eastern slope of the Chancellor Avenue hill, closer to grassy, wooded Weequahic Park, a landscaped three hundred acres whose boating lake, golf course, and harness-racing track separated the Weequahic section from the industrial plants and shipping terminals lining Route 27 and the Pennsylvania Railroad viaduct east of that and the burgeoning airport east of that and the very edge of America east of that—the depots and docks of Newark Bay, where they unloaded cargo from around the world. At the western end of the neighborhood, the parkless end where we lived, there resided an occasional schoolteacher or pharmacist but otherwise few professionals were among our immediate neighbors and certainly none of the prosperous entrepreneurial or manufacturing families. The men worked fifty, sixty, even seventy or more hours a week; the women worked all the time, with little assistance from labor-saving devices, washing laundry, ironing shirts, mending socks, turning collars, sewing on buttons, mothproofing woolens, polishing furniture, sweeping and washing floors, washing windows, cleaning sinks, tubs, toilets, and stoves, vacuuming rugs, nursing the sick, shopping for food, cooking meals, feeding relatives, tidying closets and drawers, overseeing paint jobs and household repairs, arranging for religious observances, paying bills and keeping the family's books while simultaneously attending to their children's health, clothing, cleanliness, schooling, nutrition, conduct, birthdays, discipline, and morale. A few women labored alongside their husbands in the family-owned stores on the nearby shopping streets, assisted after school and on Saturdays by their older children, who delivered orders and tended stock and did the cleaning up. It was work that identified and distinguished our neighbors for me far more than religion. Nobody in the neighborhood had a beard or dressed in the antiquated Old World style or wore a skullcap either outdoors or in the houses I routinely floated through with my boyhood friends. The adults were no longer observant in the outward, recognizable ways, if they were seriously observant at all, and aside from older shopkeepers like the tailor and the kosher butcher—and the ailing or decrepit grandparents living of necessity with their adult offspring—hardly anyone in the vicinity spoke with an accent. By 1940 Jewish parents and their children at the southwestern corner of New Jersey's largest city talked to one another in an American English that sounded more like the language spoken in Altoona or Binghamton than like the dialects famously spoken across the Hudson by our Jewish counterparts in the five boroughs. Hebrew lettering was stenciled on the butcher shop window and engraved on the lintels of the small neighborhood synagogues, but nowhere else (other than at the cemetery) did one's eye chance to land on the alphabet of the prayer book rather than on the familiar letters of the native tongue employed all the time by practically everyone for every conceivable purpose, high or low. At the newsstand out front of the corner candy store, ten times more customers bought the Racing Form than the Yiddish daily, the Forvertz. Israel didn't yet exist, six million European Jews hadn't yet ceased to exist, and the local relevance of distant Palestine (under British mandate since the 1918 dissolution by the victorious Allies of the last far-flung provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire) was a mystery to me. When a stranger who did wear a beard and who never once was seen hatless appeared every few months after dark to ask in broken English for a contribution toward the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, I, who wasn't an ignorant child, didn't quite know what he was doing on our landing. My parents would give me or Sandy a couple of coins to drop into his collection box, largess, I always thought, dispensed out of kindness so as not to hurt the feelings of a poor old man who, from one year to the next, seemed unable to get it through his head that we'd already had a homeland for three generations. I pledged allegiance to the flag of our homeland every morning at school. I sang of its marvels with my classmates at assembly programs. I eagerly observed its national holidays, and without giving a second thought to my affinity for the Fourth of July fireworks or the Thanksgiving turkey or the Decoration Day double-header. Our homeland was America. Then the Republicans nominated Lindbergh and everything changed. For nearly a decade Lindbergh was as great a hero in our neighborhood as he was everywhere else. The completion of his thirty-three-and-a-half-hour nonstop solo flight from Long Island to Paris in the tiny monoplane the Spirit of St. Louis even happened to coincide with the day in the spring of 1927 that my mother discovered herself to be pregnant with my older brother. As a consequence, the young aviator whose daring had thrilled America and the world and whose achievement bespoke a future of unimaginable aeronautical progress came to occupy a special niche in the gallery of family anecdotes that generate a child's first cohesive mythology. The mystery of pregnancy and the heroism of Lindbergh combined to give a distinction bordering on the divine to my very own mother, for whom nothing less than a global annunciation had accompanied the incarnation of her first child. Sandy would later record this moment with a drawing illustrating the juxtaposition of those two splendid events. In the drawing—completed at the age of nine and smacking inadvertently of Soviet poster art—Sandy envisioned her miles from our house, amid a joyous crowd on the corner of Broad and Market. A slender young woman of twenty-three with dark hair and a smile that is all robust delight, she is surprisingly on her own and wearing her floral-patterned kitchen apron at the intersection of the city's two busiest thoroughfares, one hand spread wide across the front of the apron, where the span of her hips is still deceptively girlish, while with the other she alone in the crowd is pointing skyward to the Spirit of St. Louis, passing visibly above downtown Newark at precisely the moment she comes to realize that, in a feat no less triumphant for a mortal than Lindbergh's, she has conceived Sanford Roth. Sandy was four and I, Philip, wasn't yet born when in March 1932, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's own first child, a boy whose arrival twenty months earlier had been an occasion for national rejoicing, was kidnapped from his family's secluded new house in rural Hopewell, New Jersey. Some ten weeks later the decomposing body of the baby was discovered by chance in woods a few miles away. The baby had been either murdered or killed accidentally after being snatched from his crib and, in the dark, still in bedclothes, carried out a window of the second-story nursery and down a makeshift ladder to the ground while the nurse and mother were occupied in their ordinary evening activities in another part of the house. By the time the kidnapping and murder trial in Flemington, New Jersey, concluded in February 1935 with the conviction of Bruno Hauptmann—a German ex-con of thirty-five living in the Bronx with his German wife—the boldness of the world's first transatlantic solo pilot had been permeated with a pathos that transformed him into a martyred titan comparable to Lincoln. Following the trial, the Lindberghs left America, hoping through a temporary expatriation to protect a new Lindbergh infant from harm and to recover some measure of the privacy they coveted. The family moved to a small village in England, and from there, as a private citizen, Lindbergh began taking the trips to Nazi Germany that would transform him into a villain for most American Jews. In the course of five visits, during which he was able to familiarize himself at first hand with the magnitude of the German war machine, he was ostentatiously entertained by Air Marshal Göring, he was ceremoniously decorated in the name of the Führer, and he expressed quite openly his high regard for Hitler, calling Germany the world's "most interesting nation" and its leader "a great man." And all this interest and admiration after Hitler's 1935 racial laws had denied Germany's Jews their civil, social, and property rights, nullified their citizenship, and forbidden intermarriage with Aryans. By the time I began school in 1938, Lindbergh's was a name that provoked the same sort of indignation in our house as did the weekly Sunday radio broadcasts of Father Coughlin, the Detroit-area priest who edited a right-wing weekly called Social Justice and whose anti-Semitic virulence aroused the passions of a sizable audience during the country's hard times. It was in November 1938—the darkest, most ominous year for the Jews of Europe in eighteen centuries—that the worst pogrom in modern history, Kristallnacht, was instigated by the Nazis all across Germany: synagogues incinerated, the residences and businesses of Jews destroyed, and, throughout a night presaging the monstrous future, Jews by the thousands forcibly taken from their homes and transported to concentration camps. When it was suggested to Lindbergh that in response to this unprecedented savagery, perpetrated by a state on its own native-born, he might consider returning the gold cross decorated with four swastikas bestowed on him in behalf of the Führer by Air Marshal Göring, he declined on the grounds that for him to publicly surrender the Service Cross of the German Eagle would constitute "an unnecessary insult" to the Nazi leadership. Lindbergh was the first famous living American whom I learned to hate—just as President Roosevelt was the first famous living American whom I was taught to love—and so his nomination by the Republicans to run against Roosevelt in 1940 assaulted, as nothing ever had before, that huge endowment of personal security that I had taken for granted as an American child of American parents in an American school in an American city in an America at peace with the world. The only comparable threat had come some thirteen months earlier when, on the basis of consistently high sales through the worst of the Depression as an agent with the Newark office of Metropolitan Life, my father had been offered a promotion to assistant manager in charge of agents at the company's office six miles west of our house in Union, a town whose only distinction I knew of was a drive-in theater where movies were shown even when it rained, and where the company expected my father and his family to live if he took the job. As an assistant manager, my father could soon be making seventy-five dollars a week and over the coming years as much as a hundred a week, a fortune in 1939 to people with our expectations. And since there were one-family houses selling in Union for a Depression low of a few thousand dollars, he would be able to realize an ambition he had nurtured growing up penniless in a Newark tenement flat: to become an American homeowner. "Pride of ownership" was a favorite phrase of my father's, embodying an idea real as bread to a man of his background, one having to do not with social competitiveness or conspicuous consumption but with his standing as a manly provider.

Table of Contents

contents

1 June 1940–October 1940 Vote for Lindbergh or Vote for War • 1

2 November 1940–June 1941 Loudmouth Jew • 44

3 June 1941–December 1941 Following Christians • 83

4 January 1942–February 1942 The Stump • 122

5 March 1942–June 1942 Never Before • 153

6 May 1942–June 1942 Their Country • 204

7 June 1942–October 1942 The Winchell Riots • 237

8 October 1942 Bad Days • 287

9 October 1942

Perpetual Fear • 328

Postscript

Note to the Reader 364

A True Chronology of the Major Figures 365

Other Historical Figures in the Work 380

Some Documentation 385

Reading Group Guide

“A terrific political novel. . . . Sinister, vivid, dreamlike. . . . Creepily plausible. . . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened.”
—The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth’s extraordinary new novel, The Plot Against America. Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh is elected president of the United States.

1. In what ways does The Plot Against America differ from conventional historical fiction? What effects does Roth achieve by blending personal history, historical fact, and an alternative history?

2. The novel begins “Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear” [p. 1]. With this sentence Roth establishes that his story is being told from an adult point of view by an adult narrator who is remembering what befell his family, over sixty years earlier, when he was a boy between the ages of seven and nine. Why else does Roth open the novel this way? What role does fear play throughout the book?

3. How plausible is the alternative history that Roth imagines? How would the world be different if America had not entered the war, or entered it on the side of Germany?

4. When the Roth family plans to go to Washington, young Philip wants to take his stamp collection with him because he fears that, since he did not remove the ten-cent Lindbergh stamp, “a malignant transformation would occur in my absence, causing my unguarded Washingtons to turn into Hitlers, and swastikas to be imprinted on my National Parks” [p. 57]. What does this passage suggest about how the Lindbergh election has affected the boy? Where else does this kind of magical thinking occur in the novel?

5. Herman Roth asserts, “History is everything that happens everywhere. Even here in Newark. Even here on Summit Avenue. Even what happens in this house to an ordinary man—that’ll be history too someday” [p. 180]. How does this conception of history differ from traditional definitions? In what ways does the novel support this claim? How is the history of the Roth family relevant to the history of America?

6. After Mrs. Wishnow is murdered, young Philip thinks, “And now she was inside a casket, and I was the one who put her there” [p. 336]. Is he to some degree responsible for her death? How did his desire to save his own family endanger hers?

7. Observing his mother’s anguished confusion, Philip discovers that “one could do nothing right without also doing something wrong” [p. 340]. Where in the novel does the attempt to do something right also result in doing something wrong? What is Roth suggesting here about the moral complexities of actions and their consequences?

8. When Herman Roth is explaining the deals Hitler has made with Lindbergh, Roth comments, “The pressure of what was happening was accelerating everyone’s education, my own included” [p. 101]. What is Philip learning? In what ways is history robbing him of a normal childhood? Why does he want to run away?

9. What motivates Rabbi Bengelsdorf, Aunt Evelyn, and Sandy to embrace Lindbergh and dismiss Herman Roth’s fears as paranoia? Are they right to do so? In what ways do their personal aspirations affect their perceptions of what is happening?

10. In what ways are Bess and Herman Roth heroic? How do they respond to the crises that befall them? How are they able to hold their family together?

11. Roth observes that violence, when it’s in a house, is heartbreaking: “like seeing the clothes in a tree after an explosion. You may be prepared to see death but not the clothes in a tree” [p. 296]. What causes Herman Roth and Alvin to fight each other so viciously? What is it that brings the violence swirling around them off the streets and into the house? Why is violence in a home so much more disturbing than on the street or the battlefield?

12. Much is at stake in The Plot Against America—the fate of America’s Jews, the larger fate of Europe and indeed of Western civilization, but also how America will define itself. What does the novel suggest about what it means to be an American, and to be a Jewish American? How are the Roths a thoroughly American family?

13. What does the postscript, particularly “A True Chronology of the Major Figures,” add to the novel?

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The Plot Against America 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 144 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read for all fans of 'alternative history!' Mr. Roth places himself within the 'what if?' story line to great effect. Excellent notes provide a great historical backdrop for any reader. Thrilling, frightening, and captivating!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was disturbing, frightening, and all to realistic. When I read what unfolded in American life under Lindburgh's presidency, it was like being slammed in the head by a two by four. How could this happen here? The book is a blueprint for disassembling our democracy. A great read!
MacPoster More than 1 year ago
Roth's conception of Lindbergh's rise to power in a frightened pre-World War II America is inventive, compelling and provocative, and brilliant in its exploration of the power of political positioning to stir up native passions. It is also potently evocative of an America we know all too well -- one scared by political machinations into action against its better long-term interests, where fear rules the day. Bushism, anyone? Most powerfully of all, in the details through which Roth tells his story, is how convincing his tale is, and how insightfully he traces the nuances of political relationships and mass messaging to show us how the powers that be manipulate crowds. From the Jewish Newark, NJ community that is the locus of his vivid and disturbing American isolationism to the echelons of power out of which the plans to defend this country against engagement in foreign affairs -- nevermind the Fascists, nevermind the Communists -- Roth has woven a tale whose experiences resonate far after the book is closed. Thanks to Roth's skill, it's also somehow fun in its own perverse way to see so completely, in the safety of knowing it didn't happen, how an alternative America might have emerged.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" is a fantastic book. The parallel world that he creates in the difficult World War II era is exhilerating and eerily realistic. Warping major historical events to fit his terrifying yet possible timeline. Apart from the horrific war that is twisting the country out of shape, the characters in Philip's house are dynamic and colorful. His paranoid, stereotypically Jewish mother reigns in her lower middle class house, warning and worrying. Philip's father is equally stereotypical, the simple American man working hard to get ahead, optimistic in the face of new diversity, jaded after being the victim of ancient prejudice. Roth's personal account of our could be-history is equally heartbreaking and terrifying. The idea of the bursting of prejudices in America causing all-out war within the country is frightening, and disturbs the image we have of America as an imperturbable fortress. Roth's book is a quiet collection of events that may have happened- in an America that was in the eleventh hour of order.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not like any Roth I have read before -- I dreaded reading more but at the same time could not stop myself. Takes the 'it could never happen here' attitudes head on and in all too vivid and realistic ways makes it clear that it simply could and often almost does. Should be required reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Philip Roth novel I've read and I must say I wasn't that impressed. His other novels like 'Portnoy's Complaint' are on my list but with this first one, I'm not running to it very quickly. The entire concept is a great one an alternate America for only a short period of time, dominated by one of the most hateful groups of all-time. But Roth didn't make the story, I don't know how to put it into words, jump out enough. As one person said before, the book lagged and although the plot was there, it sluggishly proceeded. When there was action, I was deeply intrigued but then it stopped and nothing happened for awhile. Maybe I have to give it another read, maybe I missed something but for now, I am somewhat disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was recommended this novel by my English teacher, and having finally got around to reading it, find it extremely perceptive and insightful writing. The entire premise, the mythical election of Charles Lindbergh as president may seem like a farfetched and unbelievable fantasy, but I found myself reading along as if the events were historically accurate and truly happened. The book subtley portrays both social and familial strains that Lindbergh's new anti-Semitic administration cause. The story very well conveys the sentiments of a culture still wrestling with the fallout and depravation of a previous world war, its reticence to welcome further international aggression, and its willingness to harbor isolationist feelings if it means bloodshed, slaughter, and betrayal will be avoided. Also, Philip Roth depicts the American Jewish family with incredible poignancy, and we see a father struggling with the elusive principles that once structured his life, but now are powerless against bureaucratic conniving and pointed anti-Jewish retribution...a mother whose logical, systematic, and omnipresent approach to childrearing is now challenged by the breakdown of her own family and the undoing of former achievements which gave an otherwise subservient household wife purpose...and two boys whose erudition, on one hand, enforces principles promoting the homogenization of Americans and the diluting of Jewish bonds, and on the other, paternal dictates directly opposite society's lessons which render their father both impassioned and powerless. All of these factors internal and external contribute to the debilitation of their family and many others alike. However, the end hints at an American populous which, despite seemingly irreversible fascist influences, will not yield to anything other than freedom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Professional reviews praise this book as an incredible read. Unfortunately I do not agree, it was simply to boring for me, nothing really ever happened, throughout the whole book we expect to get a feeling of how America would be under a Nazi regime, how hard core anti-Semitism would feel in America, it was too slow and too full of unnecessary detail. But worst of all the writer did not leave very much room for suspense, sense most of the chapters began with describing what had happened and then how it happened, we always knew what was coming¿.or in better words, what was not coming because for me nothing ever happened. Sorry to disagree with other readers but it was painfully slow and boring to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book with great expectations. The synopsis was great, the reviews were great so I was hopeful that I would be glued to this book until it was done. What I found upon opening the pages, was a very poorly written or poorly edited book. Chapter one was filled with long run on sentences. I tried to get past this but was unable to. I scanned the other chapters and found the same. I tried 3 different times to read this book and just couldn't do it. It is good to see that others were able to overlook the long and rambling run-ons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
three+chapters+I+just+read+seem+pointless.%0AWe++know+the+plot+and+storyline.%0AI+almost+never+give+up+on+a+book%2Cbut+I%27m+hating+this
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Doesn't really stretch the imagination all that much, which makes it not as much of a what-if as it wants to be. For a cynic, it'll read like old news.
markbarnes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
CJWeaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not one of Roth's best works, but it does provide his usual does of fiction from beginning to end. I found the ending to lack credibility in the real world. It is worth the time for a good, above average read.
ChicGeekGirl21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really, REALLY good until the very last chapter, which is a total cop-out.
gilporat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roth makes you understand how the Holocaust happened and why it can happen again without society even knowing it is heading in such a tragic direction.
edlynne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story of a young boy growing up in an America with a Lindbergh as president. I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction but this is beautifully written, very engaging read. With a rather unfortunate cover though...
mrkatzer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The biggest problem I have with the book is in the narration. The story is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old¿ sort of. More accurately, it is told by a indeterminately older man remembering the events that happened in America when he was nine. The product is the confused outlook of a child¿s innocence mixed with a grown-up¿s cynicism, but with no clear delineation between the two. Combined with sometimes-dauntingly long blocks of text, this clunky method of storytelling does slow the novel down from time to time.Still, the idea of the novel is so brilliant that I still must recommend the book. Even though Roth¿s narration isn¿t my favorite, the combination of real history with an utterly, horrifically plausible fascist America is enthralling. It¿s not a perfect novel but it¿s definitely worth a read.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
john257hopper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gripping novel about the lifes and troubles of a Jewish family in an America that fortunately never was, where the extreme right wing aviator Charles Lindbergh stands for and wins the Presidency. Powerful stuff, though the explanation given for what motivated him in this parallel world, connected to the fate of his son, is rather implausible. Terrific stuff.
ealtman2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was really compelling, especially considering contemporary politics and the slowly boiling pot we frogs currently find ourselves in. What makes the story particularly relatable is that this fictional account of the nations subtle descent into (and rescue from) fascism is set against the coming-of-age of an urban Jewish youth.
gocam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roth uses extraordinarily long sentences that nonetheless remain eminently readable, drive the narrative metronomically forward whilst presenting an alterered reality at once frightening, touching, eerily alien yet familiar, at times complex yet always clear. This is a masterful work that addresses weighty topics remaining readable, compelling, aggresive yet thankfully lacking any shrill notes. Quite a trick to pull off for a work imagining a world where the Nazi sympathiser Charles Lindbergh is elected president on a platform that assures America's non involvement in the "European" WW2, and how the chain of events affects society, relationships, government, and most personally the "ghetto" Jewish Roth family. Epic and wonderful.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Plot Against America is a pseudo-autobiographical novel about growing up Jewish in the 1940s not during Roosevelt's presidency, but the anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh's. It was an interesting decision for Roth to narrate from the eyes of a young boy - the politics and intricacies of everything going on in America are sometimes missed by Phil and are only the backdrop for the novel, but the real story is the family's struggles to reconcile religion with patriotism during this difficult time.
ddelmoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Back in the early 70's we were all reading Philip Roth. Freshman year in college, I went to the town book store and was shocked that no one stopped me from buying Portnoy's Complaint. They actually let me buy a "dirty" book. What no one told me was how funny it was. After reading Goodbye Columbus, I never thought to look for a Roth book again. Ah, the stupidity of youth! I re-discovered Roth thanks to my book club choosing The Plot Against America. I'm positive as a 17 year old, I didn't appreciate what a wonderful writer Roth is. It's very difficult to built the perfect pace, atmosphere, characters and a well developed story line all in one novel, but Roth succeeded beautifully with this book. It took 30 years, but Roth will no longer escape my TBR stack...
feistyscot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best book I read in 2005. It's pure Roth. It's a fascinating description of 'creeping fascism' and how easily it may occur. It requires neither brainwashing on a vast scale, nor charismatic leaders, nor militarism. It requires merely that rational, good-willed individuals acquiesce in a series of small initiatives that add up to profound change in the structure and governance of society. Roth describes this process by way of a brilliant story.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As soon as you find out that the main character in this book is Philip Roth, a boy growing up in the same place and the same time as the author Roth, this book takes on the feel of a memoir. Essentially, this book is not about the alternative world Roth has created by changing one election, but about how the Roth family lives and survives in this world. Much of it is seen through the eyes of 9 year old Philip, but as he would explain it years later, as an adult. The language and analysis of events is not that of a child¿s.The alternative history holds up pretty well, until the "bad days" begin. At that point in the book, the narrative starts to fall apart as you get a straight summary of events of the next 10 days. Is this by design? I¿m not sure. I felt like it interrupted the flow of the story. I also felt like Roth cops out a bit at the end¿ I was expecting a story where Hitler wins and the world is forever changed. What you get instead is just a blip in the WWII timeline¿ a delay of the events that really happened.Overall, it was a good read and I¿m glad I read it, despite the concentration it took to get through some of Roth¿s run-on sentences. Would I read another by him? Based on the writing style alone, no, but if the story interested me I¿d pick it up regardless.