The Plot Against America

Today, we’re going to play hooky from house painting and head over to the shores of Lake Ontario, settle into our beach chair in the sand, and enjoy some breezy summer fiction. Okay, “breezy” isn’t the most appropriate adjective for…

The Plot Against America
By Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 400 pp.

4 Stars

Plot

It’s 1940 and Nazi Germany is overrunning Europe and implementing its anti-Semitic policies throughout the continent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt desires to enter the United States into the war in support of the frazzled Brits, but there’s a growing isolationist movement led by aviation hero, Charles A. Lindbergh. In his speeches around the nation, Lindbergh is guardedly circumspect, but in private it’s clear he has pro-German and anti-Jewish sympathies. Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election and begins to implement anti-Semitic reeducation and resettlement programs, which are defended by a few high-profile, opportunistic, quisling, pro-Lindbergh Jews as being ultimately beneficial.

The tire meets the road in Newark, New Jersey with the Jewish Roth family who watch in horror as the nation turns increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic. The parents are mortified when their teenage son is duped into voluntarily participating in a Jewish youth reeducation program. When the father’s employer selects him and his family for resettlement as part of a government initiative, he quits his job and contemplates moving his family to Canada, as several Jewish families in their neighborhood have already done. Pogroms ensue and Jews must increasingly take up arms to defend themselves. Just as circumstances reach critical mass, Lindbergh disappears while piloting an airplane. Conspiracy theories abound and the fascist administration uses the opportunity to further crack down on Jews and arrest dissenters. Lindbergh’s sensible wife makes a radio appeal to the nation and the fascist elements are successfully checked. Emergency elections are held in 1942 and Roosevelt is reelected to a third term. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor the following month and the United States declares war against the Axis alliance.

Comments

I enjoyed this alternative history. Few people today are aware of the extent of the popularity of the pro-German, isolationist, and anti-Semitic network in America prior to WWII (see Lindbergh, Henry Ford, radio-priest Charles Coughlin, Senator Burton Wheeler, German-American Bund, etc.). The pace at the conclusion of the novel, after Lindbergh’s disappearance, is a jarringly frantic roller coaster ride, as if Roth suddenly tired of the project and just wanted to get it over with.

Postscript: President Franklin Roosevelt is portrayed as the hero of this novel as the defender of the American Jews. An ironic historical twist is that FDR directed that between 110,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living mainly in the Western States be forcibly consigned to internment camps during most of WWII.

34 thoughts on “The Plot Against America

    1. Thanks, Mandy! I actually meant that imaginary trip to the beach for a breezy read ⛱ for the readers of this review, but my wording was confusing! 😵 This afternoon, I’m going to cut the front lawn and work on scraping the windows a little bit, but not too much because it’s 90 and sunny out there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am SO sorry! Ok, maybe you’ll find humor in this. One year before the US Open my mom and I came to NYC early. On one of our excursions we walked the Brooklyn Bridge. Well long story short, my mom had to go to the bathroom. So at first I am like no big deal I was checking things out. I saw there was a bench but it was occupied by two guys. By this point in time I am starting to freak out, like what’s taking this woman so long. I am now noticing that police are in the area and I’m starting to panic even more. Finally what seems like a half hour later, my mom is out of the bathroom. I said, “what took you so long?” She said, “what us your problem?” I pointed and exclaimed, “read the sign it says no standing anytime!” My mom laughed in my face so hard and said, “that means no parking!” I said, “why the h— does the sign face the curb instead of facing the driver?!” All this is to say that I am a VERY literal person! I assure you everyone that was around us at the Brooklyn side of the bridge found this really funny. Whether you (singular and plural) are laughing with me or at me, at least you’re relieving stress! I don’t know if you have those signs in Rochester but it sure took some years off the back end of my life! Stay cool Papa Tom!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Funny story, Mandy! We all have problems with interpretation sometimes. Also, we may think we’ve created a clear message, until people read it and say, Huh? Oh, yeah, we have plenty of “No Standing Anytime” signs here. We’re only about 8 miles from Rochester city center. Got the fron yard cut (Phew!) and ready to tackle one of the windows. Looks like rain but the windows are under very wide eaves.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The high temp is actually going to drop to 73F on Wednesday, but I put off cutting the grass way too long and the house was starting to look like it was abandoned.

        Like

    1. Thanks, sister! The author took quite a few liberties with this “alternative history” yarn, kind of jarring for a history buff like myself, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sounds extremely interesting, Tom. And again … as we draw near to the end of the age, anti-Semitism will increase. Another point of irony, during the Holocaust, FDR wasn’t exactly beckoning Jews from Europe to come to America, nor was he making it easy for them. He could have done more, I believe.

    Anyway, despite the rushed ending you mentioned, this sounds very interesting. How was the language (i.e., curse words)? Did Roth use bad language?

    Like

    1. Thanks, David. I agree with your comments about FDR not pushing hard to help European Jews. I remember one example, the SS St. Louis and the “Voyage of the Damned” in 1939.

      I don’t recall anything that’s objectionable in the novel as far as language or situations go, which is probably unusual for a Roth novel. The fact that Roth tells the story in first-person as a child has much to do with that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. 👋🏻
      Have a good rest of the day! I cut the front yard and will now tackle a window. Steak and lobster tonight because today’s our 46th wedding anniversary, not too far away from yours on the calendar.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds very fascinating. Especially the alternative history. Have you heard of Phillip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle? It kind of reminds me of that, loosely. Never read that book and only watch the Amazon series which is very different than the book of course

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 46 years! Congratulations… the Lord bless you both! Next July will be our 40th God willing, and as a sweet sister in Christ used to say… I hope He’s willing. Made me chuckle when she said that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cathy! May the Lord continue to bless your marriage (and speed Billy’s recovery). These days, forty years of marriage is a testimony to the Lord and his grace.
      RE: I hope He’s willing
      Thanks! I got a chuckle, too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy! It’s available via Amazon in the States for $22.99 total for all six episodes. That’s a little steep for my budget, but I do have a few gift cards to burn.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s