"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Can you tell that I have started back to work?  The last time I posted anything was almost a week ago.  Arg!  This happens every year.  Sigh!

Anyway, I just finished a fabulous book, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Though this book is intended for adult readers I think that there is a lot to recommend this book to teen readers as well, especially those who enjoy reading historical fiction.  Roth is an excellent writer, in fact this book ended up on a lot of lists when the "100 Best Books of the Decade" were announced last year. It also came to my attention because it is on a American Library Association's list of books that college-bound students should read.

The plot of this book is intriguing.  What if some event in history were altered?  How would that alter subsequent events?  In the case of The Plot Against America the event that is altered is the 1940 election when FDR is running for his third term as President of the United States and the war in Europe is looming. Here Charles A. Lindbergh, an American hero and a known anti-Semite, wins the election on the sole promise that a vote for him is a vote for staying out of the war. The premise of the story was based on actual isolationist views expressed by Lindbergh and his activity in America First Committee in the early 1940s. The story is told from the point-of-view of a young Philip Roth, a nine-year-old Jewish boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey where he and his family live in a predominantly Jewish community. Things go downhill fast for Philip and his family as antisemitism in the United States builds to a crescendo and their world gets turned upside-down.

Roth infused a lot of actual historical events and individuals into the storyline, he just altered what happened to them.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about history, albeit from a warped perspective, and about individuals I knew nothing or little about prior to reading this book.  People like Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, New York City Mayor Laguardia, Senator Burton K. Wheeler from Montana, and the colorful radio personality Walter Winchell came to life for me. Reading about history through fictional works if a very painless way to learn and I highly recommend it.

The New York Times reviewer said this about the book: "The novel is sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible."  That "creepily plausible" part is what has me thinking about the book and it's greater meaning. How tenuous is our government and how quickly could it fall apart if just a few things were altered just a little?  It gives me cause to pause and think. That is the genius of this book.

3 comments:

  1. This book sounds fascinating! Thanks for bringing to my attention. I wonder if teens without a strong sense of history might miss which events/personae had been altered from real life? I think that would be my only pre-conceived concern. Great review!

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  2. Chelle, I learned a lot about the history of the time, plus the back of the book has an appendix with the actual historical events, unaltered.

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  3. Hi there, just stoppping by to say you have a ward over on my blog, come check it out :)

    bookbee

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