Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Plot Against America

Title: The Plot Against America

Author: Philip Roth

Number of Pages: 591

Date started:20 April 2009

Date finished: 25 April 2009

Opening words:

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.

Read the first chapter here.


In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt sought and won an unprecedented third presidential term. Britain was already under German attack and the U.S. had not entered the war. While in office, Roosevelt continued to support Great Britain, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war, American neutrality was no longer sustainable.

In Philip Roth's new novel, things turn out very differently. The Plot Against America imagines what might have happened if flying ace and staunch isolationist Charles Lindbergh defeated Roosevelt in 1940. Instead of going to war, an anti-Semitic Lindbergh signs a peace pact with Germany and Japan, and his policies create an atmosphere of religious hatred.

What I thought:

In some ways I really liked this book, the plot was a clever idea and it was possible to see echoes of it throughout different times in society. But there was a part of me that felt I endured rather than enjoyed this book. I am not sure it needed to be quite as long as it was and at points it seemed to drag, but the book was a warning against complacency about those we elect into office.

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