Saturday, June 23, 2012
Review of The Plot Against America
Imagine, a world where World War II is being fought without the interference of America, where the ruling president is a closet fascist, where jews are targeted for being warmongerers and where fear and ignorance is all around.
This is the picture that Philip Roth has painted in this magnificent novel. Instead of President Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh is elected president and his main goal is to keep America out of the European war. So far he's following the course of history, as president Roosevelt also meant to keep America out of the war, but the lengths Lindbergh goes to keep his promise are mindblowing.
Signing a threaty with Germany and Japan to not interfere in each others dealings and turning a blind eye to the suffering of Europe, is his way to give America the peace he promised.
During this political game, we follow the every day life of a jewish family with two children. They are depicted as being Philip Roth's actual family and the book is mainly told in his voice, being a 9year old child at the time.
His way of seeing the truth and how he deals with his family anxiety, fear and perpetual amazement at how their world turned on a dime, is something unique. A childish view on a large scale problem.
My two cents
First of all, I have a penchant for WWII literature, being non-fiction or fiction and this delivered plentiful.
I loved the novel from the beginning to the very end and am certain that I'll reread it someday and find so much more inbetween the written lines than I did now.
Roth's way of telling his story reminded me strongly of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. How a child sees the big bad world and how they come to deal with it. With being all grown up, we lose touch with the child we once were and it is amazing how different they react to circumstances.
With having a newborn, I'm more susceptible for this kind of narration and instead of taking it all for granted I stopped to think about what he did or thought of all the events happening around him.
For instance how an aviation hero suddenly became a thing to fear for jewish people. How his brother changed from being his role model, to someone his parents were weary of and eventually to a artistic don juan. How his father suddenly lost his temper.
The way Roth describes the rise to presidency of Lindbergh, eventually getting elected and how some other rats of our history gotten into congress, is so well constructed you could see it enfolding right before you. Adding to that the fact that in real life the republicans have asked Lindbergh to go for president, but he declined, makes it all the more so.
This is a path history could've taken, not too farfetched. Outwardly nothing much seemed to have changed, but the general atmosphere has been transformed into one of ignorance and fear. Antisemitic riots, nazi lobbyists, general intolerance for the jewish race, all things that could've happened in an America ruled by the wrong president.
The Plot Against America is a brilliant work of fiction, almost lifelike. I was sad when I finished it, just because I finished it. If that doesn't say enough.
Personal rating: 4 stars
Page count: 400 pages
First published in 2004