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The Plot Against America
PHILIP ROTH

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
534 reviews (2004) (400p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction Finalist
New York TimesĀ® Best Fiction Books
Amazon.com Best Books
ALA Notable Books - Fiction Finalist

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Book Description
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.


Amazon.com Review
"What if" scenarios are often suspect. They are sometimes thinly veiled tales of the gospel according to the author, taking on the claustrophobic air of a personal fantasia that can't be shared. Such is not the case with Philip Roth's tour de force, The Plot Against America. It is a credible, fully-realized picture of what could happen anywhere, at any time, if the right people and circumstances come together.

The Plot Against America explores a wholly imagined thesis and sees it through to the end: Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR for the Presidency in 1940. Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle," captured the country's imagination by his solo Atlantic crossing in 1927 in the monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, then had the country's sympathy upon the kidnapping and murder of his young son. He was a true American hero: brave, modest, handsome, a patriot. According to some reliable sources, he was also a rabid isolationist, Nazi sympathizer, and a crypto-fascist. It is these latter attributes of Lindbergh that inform the novel.

The story is framed in Roth's own family history: the family flat in Weequahic, the neighbors, his parents, Bess and Herman, his brother, Sandy and seven-year-old Philip. Jewishness is always the scrim through which Roth examines American contemporary culture. His detractors say that he sees persecution everywhere, that he is vigilant in "Keeping faith with the certainty of Jewish travail"; his less severe critics might cavil about his portrayal of Jewish mothers and his sexual obsession, but generally give him good marks, and his fans read every word he writes and heap honors upon him. This novel will engage and satisfy every camp.

"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." This is the opening paragraph of the book, which sets the stage and tone for all that follows. Fear is palpable throughout; fear of things both real and imagined. A central event of the novel is the relocation effort made through the Office of American Absorption, a government program whereby Jews would be placed, family by family, across the nation, thereby breaking up their neighborhoods--ghettos--and removing them from each other and from any kind of ethnic solidarity. The impact this edict has on Philip and all around him is horrific and life-changing. Throughout the novel, Roth interweaves historical names such as Walter Winchell, who tries to run against Lindbergh. The twist at the end is more than surprising--it is positively ingenious.

Roth has written a magnificent novel, arguably his best work in a long time. It is tempting to equate his scenario with current events, but resist, resist. Of course it is a cautionary tale, but, beyond that, it is a contribution to American letters by a man working at the top of his powers. --Valerie Ryan


Other Award Winning Books by Philip Roth
Everyman by Philip Roth
159 reviews (2006) (192p) (PF)
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The Human Stain by Philip Roth
304 reviews (2000) (384p) (PF) (NYTimes) (LATimes)
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I Married a Communist by Philip Roth
52 reviews (1998) (336p) (LATimes) (ALA)
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American Pastoral by Philip Roth
392 reviews (1997) (432p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NYTimes)
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Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
64 reviews (1995) (464p) (PP) (NBA) (NYTimes)
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Operation Shylock by Philip Roth
30 reviews (1993) (400p) (PP) (PF)
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The Counterlife by Philip Roth
23 reviews (1987) (336p) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes)
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The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth
15 reviews (1983) (304p) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes)
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ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND by Philip Roth
4 reviews (1981) (700p) (NYTimes) (LATimes)
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The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
38 reviews (1979) (192p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NBA)
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The Professor of Desire by Philip Roth
10 reviews (1977) (272p) (NBCCA)
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My Life As a Man by Philip Roth
13 reviews (1974) (352p) (NBA)
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Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
57 reviews (1959) (320p) (NBA)
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PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
93 reviews (288p) (Modern100)
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Philip Roth Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 21  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 13  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 1 American Pastoral ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 4 American Pastoral · Operation Shylock · Sabbath's Theater · The Ghost Writer ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 The Counterlife ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 6 American Pastoral · The Anatomy Lesson · The Counterlife · The Ghost Writer · The Plot Against America · The Professor of Desire ·  
National Book Award Wins 2 Sabbath's Theater · Goodbye, Columbus ·  
National Book Award Nominations 6 My Life As a Man · Sabbath's Theater · The Anatomy Lesson · The Counterlife · The Ghost Writer · Goodbye, Columbus ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 3 Operation Shylock · The Human Stain · Everyman ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 3 Operation Shylock · The Human Stain · Everyman ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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