The Plot Againstis an unusual alternate history fiction novel by Philip J. Roth. It is set in an early 1940s, principally in Newark, New Jersey, ( time and location where Roth himself grew up), and tells the story of an America which is increasingly turning towards fascism and anti-semitism.
The novel’s main viewpoint character is a young Jewish boy named. It is from his perspective that we see rise of anti-semitism, but we also learn many o r details of ’s childhood. As a result, the is not just about the changes to , but also about growing up – and these details are one of the things that gives the its very unique flavor.
According to Roth, he was not aware of thegenre at the time he wrote this novel, and while that seems surprising in many ways (and some s and critics have questioned this claim), it does seem possible that Roth’s claim could be true, especially since there are a number of aspects of the story which don’t follow the normal conventions of the genre. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the ending (and what happens after ’s fascist period) – which I won’t reveal in this – but which I am confident that anybody with even the slightest belief in the butterfly effect will find unbelievable and perhaps even contrived, and which in my opinion is more along the lines of secret history than history. That said, I personally did not find the ending detracted from the novel as whole – because I felt the novel was really about what ’s feelings and life in the situation described, rather than the specific historical details of the political background story.
It is probably worth mentioning as well that the book has attracted some criticisms, especially from some sections of the conservative press, for its portrayals of real life characters (such as Charles Lindbergh), and for the apparent ease with which anti-semitism becomes common in th United States. Addressing the second criticism first, Roth has actually written in his autobiography about the anti-semitism that he himself encountered during his childhood, and many of the anti-semitic incidents he describes in the novel seem to be clearly based on the anti-semitism that he found in our timeline’s non-fascist America. As for the portrayal of historical characters, I don’t think that you would want to read any alternate history if you were highly sensitive about that sort of thing!
Over all, this is one of my favorite alternate history novels, not in spite of the differences from most of the genre, but because of them. Yes, I could make many nitpicking criticisms about flaws that I perceived in the plausibility of the historical events described in the novel – but as I’ve already said, the book isn’t really about historical events or even alternate historical events, rather it’s a high quality work of literature, largely about growing-up, in which alternate history simply provides the background.
If you’re the kind of alternate history fan who is only interested in the historical details such as specific battles, weapons and leadership decisions, then this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you have a broader appreciation of good and interesting writing, and want something different from the glut of run-of-the-mill alternate history novels, then this books is for you.