Plot Against America-Roth   Leave a comment

This is a book from the list 1001 books to read before you die. I have already completed 3 books by Philip Roth, also on the list, and enjoyed them very much. Thus I approached this novel with much anticipation.

The book was published in 2004. Philip Roth has now written around 30 novels, many of them partly autobiographical and often based in Newark, New Jersey, where Roth spent his childhood. He often blurs the distinction between reality and fiction. He talks from a strongly Jewish point of view, often discussing anti semitism.

The novel is an alternative history set during 1940-42, where Charles Lindberg is elected to the presidency, and the ensuing anti-semitism which developed throughout the USA. The narrator is a young Philip, and the story follows the Roth family under the presidency, as antisemitism becomes more accepted and families, like the Roths, experience persecution.

Roth was inspired to write the novel whilst reading the autobiography of Arthur Schlesinger Jr, where it is commented that many republicans were keen to encourage Lindberg to stand for the Presidency. It is well known the Lindberg received a medal from the Nazi party and spent time in Germany before war was declared and was very much in favour of the policies of Hitler at that time. He is also renowned for his isolationist opinions. Roth uses all of these historical facts in his alternative history.

I very much enjoyed the book, having read a summary I expected something similar to Fatherland-Robert Harris, but it is very different. Using Roth’s usual parochial style, letting you identify with his family and locale. The story develops gradually and carries you with it, until suddenly you cringe as you feel the threat of the persecution as it becomes apparent.

When first published, many thought it a metaphor against the Bush administration and its policies. Roth openly disagreed with Bush’s political views, but has never commented any connection in the novel. It did won the james Fennimore Cooper best historical fiction award, but did not fare so well with Scifi awards. After the Trump election, many claimed that Alvin’s entrepreneur employer showed great similarities to Trump himself.

I would recommend this book, and any of Roth’s novels for an understanding of Jewish American culture, and a good narrative which will leave you thinking.



Posted September 20, 2017 by dianne7 in book review

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