Dani Peloquin's Reviews > The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
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's review
May 11, 2012

did not like it

The story in The Plot Against America revolves around a "what if" event or what's called an alternative history. In the story, FDR is up for reelection in 1940 but loses to the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh. After the election, antisemitism runs even more rampant than it hard previously. The reader sees all of this through the eyes of a young Jewish boy named Philip Roth and his family which consists of his brother, mother, father, and cousin all of whom live in New Jersey. When Roth's aunt begins a relationship with a rabbi who works for Lindberg, the family becomes divided. The familial situaton worsens when Roth's brother, Sandy is recruited by the government to travel to a rural section of the country to learn how to live like an "average American". This is a program that was spearheaded by Roth's aunt and is open to only Jewish children. Roth's father believes that it is a trap and when Sandy returns from his trip a Lindbergh sympathizer, the entire family is in an uproar. At the same time, Roth's cousin who lives with the family in New Jersey decides to move to Canada where he can join the army and fight against the Nazis. However, he is severely wounded and looses a leg in combat. When he returns to the family house, tensions rise as he butts heads with Sandy. While the family's personal issues boil, so does that of the entire country. Lindbergh's isolationist views leads him to side wit the Germans against England and the country's previous allies. Tensions in the Roth family and the country as a whole continue to rise until the book reaches a violent climax.

When I read over my description of the novel, I am shocked by how much action there seems to be in the book. However, I did not feel this way when I was reading it. I kept waiting patiently for something to happen and oftentimes thought about putting the book down for good! Once the climax was finally reached, it seemed a bit lame and expected. The idea behind the story is fascinating but Roth's novel is sluggish and dull more times than not. Though it was believable, I thought that he could have pushed it a bit more which would have added more drama without feeling unrealistic. In a country that has rioted numerous times and has a history of being segregated on certain issues regarding religion, I felt that there was more material there that Roth could have tapped into. I supposed the most interesting aspect of the story is that Roth used his own name which made the novel feel almost like a memoir. In fact, there are certain parts that Roth even states are factual (or at least close to fact) such as his experiences growing up Jewish in New Jersey and the antisemitism that existed in the country during that time. Though this was interesting, it wasn't enough to keep my interest and I found myself putting the book down numerous times to read something else only to go back to it begrudgingly. Overall, fantastic idea...dull follow through.


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