The Plot Against America: It’s not fanfic if you’ve got a raft of awards

The Plot Against America is an alternative American history. Everyone sort of has to decide for themselves if they like that sort of thing: it’s traditionally one of those lowbrow writing pursuits, like fanfic, but Philip Roth is a Real Writer, which means we can count on, if nothing else, competent execution of the project. Roth has a strong sense of history, too, so we can expect something executed with good internal accuracy too. On the other side of the scale, it’s from the point of view of a boy named Philip Roth living in suburban Newark, so it’s not only alt-history, but autobiographical alt-history.

But, anyways, moving past all the genre classifications which mark this book as kinda sketchy, the actual writing’s a treat. Our expectations are not amiss: Roth delivers a solid well-crafted narrative with internal consistency, a good sense of integration of the personalities already on the political landscape at the time, and a number of interesting and diverse characters. My main complaint about this work, actually, is the last chapter and a half: both the plot and the writing seem to derail a fair bit. From my point of view, dropping a historical overview at the end of the penultimate chapter was a bad idea: it sort of sucked all the life out of the remainder of the book that it had all been laid out in advance. But even without the overview, the ending seems awfully abrupt.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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