The Plot Against America

I just finished reading Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. This highly fictionalized autobiography is actually an alternative history, based on the postulate that the Republican convention in 1940 was deadlocked and drafted Charles Lindbergh by acclamation. Lindbergh goes on to defeat Roosevelt’s effort to win a third term, running a campaign based on anti-Semitic and pro-German sentiments, all in the guise of keeping the United States out of the European war. Needless to say, the novel is full of explicit and implicit political content, including some thought-provoking ideas on the subject of the trade-off between liberty and security. The fears of a pro-Nazi government in Washington become all too convincing. “It can’t happen here” — or can it?

On a lighter note, I found that the accounts of growing up Jewish in Newark resonated in various ways. But there’s certainly no need to be either Jewish or from New Jersey to appreciate this book. Despite the political themes, the story is dominated mostly by the fake autobiography and its account of life in the fictionalized Roth family. (I have no idea to what extent this aspect of the “autobiography” is true to life.)

The only strange thing about The Plot Against America is that the linear narrative is occasionally interrupted by flash-forwards, usually for political reasons. I found the break in the sequential flow of the story jarring, and the revealed future was too often a spoiler. Otherwise it’s a terrific novel. Read it!

Categories: Books