Sunday, December 18, 2016


Philip Roth
Vintage Books

Ms. Hen decided to read THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA because it is the book to read right now. Ms. Hen knows a lot of people who have been talking about this book. It is historical fiction about Charles Lindberg winning the presidency over Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. Ms. Hen thinks this is a prophetic novel because the feelings of the characters are much like the feelings of people in America today: fear and uncertainty about the future. Ms. Hen doesn’t know how Philip Roth could know what would happen, but it’s something that always could have happened. America is a precarious country, and that can result in horrific events.

Charles Lindberg was a known fascist and Nazi sympathizer. He becomes president because he says he will keep America out of the war in Europe, which people want, since they don’t want to send their men to fight a war that doesn’t belong to them again. Philip Roth, a nine-year old boy, lives in Newark, New Jersey with his father, mother and brother. The family is afraid of Lindberg becoming president because they are Jewish and they live in a Jewish neighborhood. The father sells insurance, and the mother stays at home. The boys go to school, and Philip loves his stamp collection, Sandy is a talented artist, and the family has a peaceful life until Lindberg presses down on them and tears the fabric of American society.

The way the characters react to Lindberg becoming president is similar to the way people are acting after this year’s election. Since Lindberg received a medal from the Nazis, the Jewish people don’t know what will happen to them. Lindberg starts a strange type of Anti-Semitism: at first, he sends young Jewish men to the country to work in farms to see what country life is like, then he sends Jewish families whose fathers work for corporations to different locations in the country where there are not a lot of Jewish people. Philip’s father and the other Jewish people believe the president is doing this to break up the voting districts and also to make the families suffer.

Ms. Hen will not give away the ending, but the plot unravels like the news this past week. Philip and his family have to endure hardships and are tortured emotionally, which is similar to what is happening presently. Nobody knows what will occur now, and in THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, they didn’t know either, and they did not know the true extent of what was going on in the world at that time.

Ms. Hen has read another book by Philip Roth, AMERICAN PASTORAL, which she also thought was fantastic. She thinks his writing is majestic, broad and sweeping, and it's a joy to have his words swimming in her head. The one thing that bothered her, however, is that his books are too masculine. Most of the main characters are men, and the women are secondary. There is a lot of discussion of men and what they do as men, and not much talk about the ways of women. Ms. Hen isn’t sure if the author isn’t interested in women, or if the male characters dominate because that’s the way he sees the world.

Ms. Hen likes to be bothered by the books that she reads. THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA opened her eyes to what the extent of what could happen here. Ms. Hen doesn’t like fascists, and doesn’t know anyone who does, but she wants to be prepared for whatever happens, like the characters in this novel.

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