I had started Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America with high expectations. I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn’t. Maybe partly because this is a very personal story for the author, almost an alternate autobiography where I expected to find a more global and engaging story line.
The novel tells the “What-If” alternate history, when in beginning of 1940’s Frankline Roosevelt loses the presidency to Charles Lindbergh “Lindy”. Lindy is known with his antisemitic stand, so that’s real. In Philip Roth’s alternate universe, we focus on a Jewish family, Phil Roth, a boy of seven, his father, the HERO of the story, his shadowy, mumsy mum, and siblings, and other relatives.
The whole book is about antisemitism. The fascist American Government in this alternate history only targets the Jewish. Really Philip Roth? Didn’t Hitler target the disabled, gay, gypsies, mentally ill? We all know that all mad dictators dislike any sort of minority, they’ll target people of colour, disabled, gay, or other minor religions.. So unrealistic to believe that a fascist dictator will only target one minority. This wasn’t even the case in Germany where as I mentioned, the gypsies, disabled, mentally ill etc. were also sent to concentration camps. More to my surprise, have a look at what Roth’s father says about Woodrow Wilson.
Sure, my father said. “Vice president Marshall, the Democtaric governer of Indiana. Vice president under another great Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Man of dignity, President Wilson. It was President Wilson,~” he said, after two days of tutelage under Mr. Taylor, himself in the mood now to elucidate, “who had the courage to appoint Louis D. Brandeis to Supreme Court. first Jewish member ever of the Supreme Court. You know that, boys?”
Woodrow Wilson. The man whose rumoured to be a KKK sympathiser. Although it is debated, see this link. Wilson screened The Birth of a Nation twice in White House, a movie that positively mentions KKK, and this is a historical fact.
What I find ironic is that some of the horrific imaginary actions against Jews in the story did happen in America. But to Black people.
I really struggled to finish the book. The story doesn’t flow. It comes and goes between being a novel and a newspaper article. I understand this is a political novel but it is rigid. And the father figure in the book is repetitively made heroic in speeches and actions, while the mother is secondary, lessen and only speaks when she has to. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. Roth is clearly a talented writer, I can’t deny he paints the picture of a Jewish family in 1940’s successfully, and creates the alternate history masterfully in some extents, however this book just didn’t worked for me.
This book has:
Audible: 4.1 (I must say I found the contemporary sci-fi category the book sits a bit misleading.)
scores by the time this review is written.