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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Just Finished Reading...The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Imagine an America in which the 1940 elections were won, not by Franklin D Roosevelt, but aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. Lindbergh was young and handsome, had a family tragedy in the kidnapping and murder of his baby son(inspiring the theme of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express) and he was considered a hero for his famous solo flight from New York to Paris. The problem was, he was also an anti-Semite, a member of America First. He admired Hitler and was against supporting the UK in the war.  

But in this novel, Americans are willing to vote for someone who has promised to keep them out of the war. So, how will it affect the war when the US refuses to allow needed arms to Britain? And, most importantly to one working class Jewish family, the Roths, how will it affect the Jews? 

Philip Roth has written a novel featuring a fictionalised version of his own family, which includes a couple of imaginary relatives, cousin Alvin, who heads for Canada to fight for the Allies, and Aunt Evelyn, a young woman who becomes a passionate supporter of Lindbergh. The story is told from the viewpoint of nine year old Philip, whose family live in Newark, New Jersey, in a completely Jewish neighbourhood, as did the real Roth family. 

I enjoy alternative universe, especially the fiction of Harry Turtledove, but Turtledove’s AU historical novels are generally seen from the viewpoints of famous historical figures such as Shakespeare, Mark Twain and Robert E. Lee, while this one is about the trials and tribulations of an ordinary family affected by the change in history. 

There are real speeches and newspaper articles worked into the novel, and the notes at the end include both an impressive list of his research material and a timeline of the real history of this time, as compared to the fictional one.  

This was written back in 2004, well before the current administration came to power, but it is believable enough to be scary, especially when you do realise how easily a populist can come to power and find support even from those who are not likely to benefit from it. 

I’ll be interested to see the TV series when it’s available on DVD, but meanwhile I’m pleased to have read the book. Recommended. 

I bought this ebook in Apple Books, but it is easily available on all the usual web sites and definitely at your local bookshop. 


Brian Joseph said...

This is one of the few Roth novels that I have not read. I also like alternate universe stories. I should read this soon. Not surprising that Roth put his family into the story. He commonly does that.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, so I hear.

Hels said...

Perfect timing :)

I didn't know of Philip Roth's novel but the film The Plot Against America starts tonight. So last week I started writing the events of Charles Lindbergh's life, the aviator-hero and nasty populist who was even more isolationist and pro-Nazi than his contemporary colleague Joe Kennedy snr.

Normally I find "What If" stories frustrating, but as a desperate anti-Thump family, it will be important to see The Plot Against America and to draw some comparisons.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I’ll look forward to reading your Lindbergh post, Hels. Lindbergh was a nasty piece of work, though I hadn’t heard he was even worse than Joe Kennedy!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - how interesting ... I didn't know any of this or the type of genre ... but I'll be looking out for Hels' post ... take care - cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

I’m looking forward to Hels’ post too.