In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history.
In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected president. Shortly thereafter, he 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.
©2004 Philip Roth (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
A country with bitter internal divisions faces a world dissolving into savage war, and a man with no political experience but a high national profile marches into the White House. His radical policies begin to transform the country in frightening ways. It was written ten years ago but reads like a thinly-disguised version of America in the summer of 2016.
And the narration is pitch-perfect.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
“The pompous [SOB] knows everything. It's too bad he doesn't know anything else.”
"--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others”
“How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.”
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
Philip Roth's convincing tale of an alternate U.S. history has been made all the more plausible by recent events. I mean, look again at these quotes. In this 1940 America, the heroic Charles Lindbergh, known as an isolationist and admirer of Hitler in his early years, is elected U.S. President in a landslide over FDR by voters fearful of becoming involved in another European war. The U.S. does not get involved in WWII and the election unleashes a swelling tide of anti-Semitism resulting, ultimately, in assignments of Jewish citizens to certain areas designated by the U.S. government's new Office of American Absorption.
Roth impressively paints this tense fictional world in the Newark, New Jersey in which he himself was raised. He narrates through his early teen, fictional self providing an absorbing read made more captivating by recent Russian interference with the U.S. Presidential election and is even more timely and chilling on this inaugural eve.
The book reads like "this is what the onset of fascism feels like" from the perspective of a family facing impending oppression. This aspect of the book is well done. On the other hand, the "what if" rewriting of history only serves confuse the narrative and ultimate detracts from the serious sense of social claustrophobia and confounding choices that one is faced with in a situation like this.
The book probably would have been more sincere without the "what if" aspect, but that hook certainly made it more fun to listen to. The expository sections of the book which take place outside the family do a lot to create some context, but the mix of history and fiction makes it difficult to stay immersed in the cocoon of paranoia and desperation.
The story meanders
The book just stops instead of ending
The reactions of the characters are illogical, unpredictable, and (even as fantasy) unbelievable.
For a great audible book on the same subject try "It can't happen here by Sinclair Lewis.
Recommended by a radio personality last weekend. It is an eye opener though the story takes place in a different time. Well worth the time to listen and contemplate. Mark Twain said something like this: " ...history may not repeat itself - but it rhymes...".
Let's hope not.
Boring lousy and unrealistic don't waste your money if you're looking for a good alternate history check out v-day or or if you're looking for a good thriller check out the last thing I remember.
Excellently told story and so very moving in our present situation
The gradual unwinding of the plot and the hideously possible nature of the crimes committed.
The reading brings in accent and flourish which I could only guess at as a Brit.
I could not listen to this in one. I had to keep coming back and savouring the building horror.
Just a fantastic bit of guesswork. Who does control Trump after all?
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