Jennine's Reviews > The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
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Jan 10, 08

Recommended for: people who like popular history
Read in January, 2008

As a fan of the "alternate history" subgenre of speculative fiction, I found The Plot Against America disappointing. I didn't think that Roth pursued his alternate history far enough into his narrator's future, and I didn't think he explored its implications thoroughly enough. Roth uses the Lindbergh presidency to good effect to highlight American anti-Semitism in the early 20th century and the less flattering features of some illustrious "great Americans", but I thought the ending gave short shrift to a fascinating and chilling premise.

However, as a fan of narratives about urban childhoods, I enjoyed the book very much. 1940s Newark and the characters who populate it live and breathe in Roth's hands. Family, neighbors, local toughs and luminaries cross through the story, lending it depth, color and tantalizing glimpses of the pieces of history that get left out of the official record.

Roth's portrait of a family threatened by an unprecedented crisis is painfully believable. The internal divisions and the tension caused by the "fight-or-flight" choices that face the Roth family build slowly and suspensefully, causing the reader to see potential catastrophe around every corner. Unfortunately the ending of the book feels anti-climactic, though not so badly that it spoiled the story for me. It just wasn't quite as satisfying an experience as I had hoped for.
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