Philip Roth's bestselling alternate history—the chilling story of what happens to one family when America elects a charismatic, isolationist president—is soon to be an HBO limited series.
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.
"A terrific political novel . . . Sinister, vivid, dreamlike . . . creepily plausible. . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened.” — The New York Times Book Review
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Before diving into the miniseries, we highly recommend reading Philip Roth’s frightening 2004 novel. The Plot Against America provides an alternative history of what World War II might have looked like if the U.S. were ruled by a fascist regime. Roth fleshes out fictionalized versions of himself, his family, and his childhood home in Newark, New Jersey, and shows how they’re impacted by the rise of the America First party. In his imagining, this political movement—led by aviation-hero-turned-president Charles Lindbergh—adopts Nazi Party tactics to persecute American Jews. The novel unfolds like nightmarish science fiction, but Roth’s masterful storytelling chops, and his deep grasp of the history of Jewish life, make the story feel totally and heartbreakingly believable. This gripping thriller is both a poignant story about family bonds and a harsh portrait of the darker side of American history. Although Roth was often criticized for only writing about himself and his neuroses, The Plot Against America proves that his powers of observation and capacity for compassion were vast.
During his long career, Roth has shown himself a master at creating fictional doppelg ngers. In this stunning novel, he creates a mesmerizing alternate world as well, in which Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 presidential election, and Philip, his parents and his brother weather the storm in Newark, N.J. Incorporating Lindbergh's actual radio address in which he accused the British and the Jews of trying to force America into a foreign war, Roth builds an eerily logical narrative that shows how isolationists in and out of government, emboldened by Lindbergh's blatant anti-Semitism (he invites von Rippentrop to the White House, etc.), enact new laws and create an atmosphere of religious hatred that culminates in nationwide pogroms.Historical figures such as Walter Winchell, Fiorello La Guardia and Henry Ford inhabit this chillingly plausible fiction, which is as suspenseful as the best thrillers and illustrates how easily people can be persuaded by self-interest to abandon morality. The novel is, in addition, a moving family drama, in which Philip's fiercely ethical father, Herman, finds himself unable to protect his loved ones, and a family schism develops between those who understand the eventual outcome of Lindbergh's policies and those who are co-opted into abetting their own potential destruction. Many episodes are touching and hilarious: young Philip experiences the usual fears and misapprehensions of a pre-adolescent; locks himself into a neighbor's bathroom; gets into dangerous mischief with a friend; watches his cousin masturbating with no comprehension of the act. In the balance of personal, domestic and national events, the novel is one of Roth's most deft creations, and if the lollapalooza of an ending is bizarre with its revisionist theory about the motives behind Lindbergh's anti-Semitism, it's the subtext about what can happen when government limits religious liberties in the name of the national interest that gives the novel moral authority. Roth's writing has never been so direct and accessible while retaining its stylistic precision and acute insights into human foibles and follies.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Nothing short of Amazing
On a road trip, we listened to the audio version of this book with Ron Silver as the narrator. It was so brilliant, we we reached our destination, we didn't want to get out of the car.
Love this book.
I picked this up b/c I loved the HBO miniseries, but was bored to tears by the book. I’m three quarters of the way through and calling it done.