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Alternate History Books   >   Books   >   The Plot Against America

   
 

The Plot Against America


Synopsis:
    Life in a fascist America during World War II.

Eras:
Review of The Plot Against America:

The Plot Against America is an unusual alternate history fiction novel by Philip J. Roth. It is set in an early 1940s, principally in Newark, New Jersey, (the time and location where Roth himself grew up), and tells the story of an America which is increasingly turning towards fascism and anti-semitism.

The novel's main viewpoint character is a young Jewish boy named Philip. It is from his perspective that we see the rise of anti-semitism, but we also learn many other details of Philip's childhood. As a result, the book is not just about the changes to history, but also about growing up - and these details are one of the things that gives the book its very unique flavor.

According to Roth, he was not aware of the alternate history genre at the time he wrote this novel, and while that seems surprising in many ways (and some reviews and critics have questioned this claim), it does seem possible that Roth's claim could be true, especially since there are a number of aspects of the story which don't follow the normal conventions of the alternate history genre. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the ending (and what happens after America's fascist period) - which I won't reveal in this review - but which I am confident that anybody with even the slightest belief in the butterfly effect will find unbelievable and perhaps even contrived, and which in my opinion is more along the lines of secret history than alternate history. That said, I personally did not find the ending detracted from the novel as whole - because I felt the novel was really about what Philip's feelings and life in the situation described, rather than the specific historical details of the political background story.

It is probably worth mentioning as well that the book has attracted some criticisms, especially from some sections of the conservative press, for its portrayals of real life characters (such as Charles Lindbergh), and for the apparent ease with which anti-semitism becomes common in th United States. Addressing the second criticism first, Roth has actually written in his autobiography about the anti-semitism that he himself encountered during his childhood, and many of the anti-semitic incidents he describes in the novel seem to be clearly based on the anti-semitism that he found in our timeline's non-fascist America. As for the portrayal of historical characters, I don't think that you would want to read any alternate history if you were highly sensitive about that sort of thing!

Over all, this is one of my favorite alternate history novels, not inspite of the differences from most of the genre, but because of them. Yes, I could make many nitpicking criticisms about flaws that I perceived in the plausibility of the historical events described in the novel - but as I've already said, the book isn't really about historical events or even alternate historical events, rather it's a high quality work of literature, largely about growing-up, in which alternate history simply provides the background.

If you're the kind of alternate history fan who is only interested in the historical details such as specific battles, weapons and leadership decisions, then this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you have a broader appreciation of good and interesting writing, and want something different from the glut of run-of-the-mill alternate history novels, then this books is for you.


   

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The Plot Against America

By Philip Roth

Vintage
Released: 2005-09-27
Paperback (391 pages)

The Plot Against America
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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.

Philip Roth: Novels 2001-2007: The Dying Animal / The Plot Against America / Exit Ghost (Library of America)

By Philip Roth

Brand: Library of America
Released: 2013-02-07
Hardcover (740 pages)

Philip Roth: Novels 2001-2007: The Dying Animal / The Plot Against America / Exit Ghost (Library of America)
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The definitive Philip Roth edition continues with three novels written in his late sixties and early seventies. The Dying Animal (2001) marks the final return of David Kepesh from The Breast (1972) and The Professor of Desire (1977). Now an eminent cultural critic in his sixties, Kepesh expertly seduces a beautiful twenty-four-year-old daughter of Cuban exiles only to find himself torn by sexual jealousy and the anguish of loss. As The Plot Against America (2004) begins, aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh has defeated Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, and fear invades every Jewish household in America. Lindbergh has publicly blamed the Jews for pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, and now in office, he negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler. What follows for Jews during the Lindbergh presidency—most particularly in the Newark household of the boy Philip Roth—is the subject of an extraordinary work of historical imagination. With Exit Ghost (2007) Roth rings down the curtain on perhaps his greatest literary creation. Nathan Zuckerman returns to a radically changed New York, the city he left eleven years before, where a rash decision draws him into a vivid drama rife with implications for his future, and his past.

Philip Roth is the only living American novelist to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by The Library of America. He has received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award twice, the PEN/Faulkner Award three times, the National Medal of Arts, and the Gold Medal in Fiction, the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Philip Roth: Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013 (The Library of America)

By Philip Roth

Library of America
Released: 2017-09-12
Hardcover (476 pages)

Philip Roth: Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013 (The Library of America)
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America’s most celebrated writer returns with a definitive edition of his essential statements on literature, his controversial novels, and the writing life, including including six pieces published here for the first time and many others newly revised.

Throughout a unparalleled literary career that includes two National Book Awards (Goodbye, Columbus, 1959 and Sabbath’s Theater, 1995), the Pulitzer Prize in fiction (American Pastoral, 1997), the National Book Critics Circle Award (The Counterlife, 1986), and the National Humanities Medal (awarded by President Obama in 2011), among many other honors, Philip Roth has produced an extraordinary body of nonfiction writing on a wide range of topics: his own work and that of the writers he admires, the creative process, and the state of American culture. This work is collected for the first time in Why Write?, the tenth and final volume in the Library of America’s definitive Philip Roth edition. Here is Roth’s selection of the indispensable core of Reading Myself and Others, the entirety of the 2001 book Shop Talk, and “Explanations,” a collection of fourteen later pieces brought together here for the first time, six never before published. Among the essays gathered are “My Uchronia,” an account of the genesis of The Plot Against America, a novel grounded in the insight that “all the assurances are provisional, even here in a two-hundred-year-old democracy”; “Errata,” the unabridged version of the “Open Letter to Wikipedia” published on The New Yorker’s website in 2012 to counter the online encyclopedia’s egregious errors about his life and work; and “The Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction,” a speech delivered on the occasion of his eightieth birthday that celebrates the “refractory way of living” of Sabbath’s Theater’s Mickey Sabbath. Also included are two lengthy interviews given after Roth’s retirement, which take stock of a lifetime of work.

Plot Against America (05) by Roth, Philip [Hardcover (2005)]

Thorndike, Hardcover(2005)
Hardcover

Plot Against America (05) by Roth, Philip [Hardcover (2005)]
 
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Plot Against America (05) by Roth, Philip [Hardcover (2005)]




   

 
 
 
 

 
 
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