Summary and book reviews of The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth X
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2005, 400 pages

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Book Summary

This may be alternative history, but it is chillingly and convincingly realistic in its portrayal. The reader watches, horrified yet totally absorbed, as America spirals down the path toward fascism.

When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial "understanding" with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty.

What then followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family — and for a million such families all over the country — during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.

Chapter 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About The Plot Against America

Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of what it was like for the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States.

Roth's richly imagined novel begins in 1940, with the landslide election of Lindbergh, who blamed the Jews for pushing America toward war with Nazi Germany. Lindbergh's admiration of Hitler and his openly anti-Semitic speeches cause increasing turmoil in the Roth household, and in nine-year-old Philip, as political events at home and abroad overtake their daily lives. Alvin, the orphaned nephew the family has taken in, runs away to ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the balance of personal, domestic and national events, the novel is one of Roth's most deft creations....Roth's writing has never been so direct and accessible while retaining its stylistic precision and acute insights into human foibles and follies.

Booklist - Brad Hooper
Starred Review. This magnificent novel is both appropriate to today's headlines and timeless for its undermining of the blind sentiment that it can't happen here.

Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
This may be alternative history, but it is chillingly and convincingly realistic in its portrayal. The reader watches, horrified yet totally absorbed, as America spirals down the path toward fascism. Perhaps the last-minute rescue and explanation for Lindbergh's stance seems a bit far-fetched, but otherwise this is a remarkable achievement. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
The story gathers breakneck velocity and intensity, ending perhaps too abruptly (and, perhaps, pointing the way to a sequel). But hilarious and terrifying by turns, it's a sumptuous interweaving of narrative, characterization, speculation, and argument that joins The Ghost Writer (1979) and Operation Shylock (1993) at the summit of Roth's achievement. An almost unbelievably rich book, and another likely major prizewinner.

Reader Reviews

LINDY

.EDU
The Plot Against America by Roth was an amazing book. I loved the fact that I knew little American History to relate to this book. Because it made me more vulnerable to believe the reason where people would want Lindbergh as their President. The ...   Read More
dianne

Roth's newest book is truly amazing. It swept me along in multiply waves of fear, terror and mystery. Was the historic Lindbergh as strong a supporter of fascism and isolationism as he is portrayed here? Now I must get back to some serious history...   Read More
lisa

excellent book,absolutely believable well written you feel like tyou are there. Very enjoyable book
Anonymous

Trite, difficult to continue to read. Revising history is cheap. Then again my strong first reaction may be more about what just occurred in the American election and the strong implications for our time.

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Beyond the Book

Interesting Links: If you're interested in knowing more about Lindbergh's life and how it actually panned out, during the war and up to his death in 1974, you might find these two sites of interest:
CharlesLindbergh.com (a hobby site) and PBS.org.

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