The Book Club meets on the second Thursday of the month. Doors open at 7 pm for light refreshment and the discussion starts at 7.30 pm.
There will be no formal meeting in April but there will be a celebration dinner at Dining Room 107 in Heswall to celebrate 10 years of the club’s existence: drinks at 7 pm then dinner at 7.30. All members past and present (and partners) will be extremely welcome- it doesn’t matter if you’ve not been able to make meetings for a while .
If you are planning to attend please email the shop so that we can let the restaurant know numbers. The cost will be £20 per person for 3 courses not including wine. We will also be choosing our favourite books from a list of over 100 which we have read over the 10 years. If you would like to be sent a copy of the list to add in your vote, again please email the shop and we will let you have it.
We will return to meeting as usual the following month on Thurs May 11th when we will be discussing ‘The Plot against America’ by Philip Roth. More about the book on the next 2 tabs.
‘ When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America.
Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty.
What then followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by Pulitzer Prize–winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family—and for a million such families all over the country—during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.’
Discussion questions on next tab
Discussion Questions : The Plot Against America
1. In what ways does The Plot Against America differ from conventional historical fiction? What effects does Roth achieve by blending personal history, historical fact, and an alternative history?
2. The novel begins “Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear” [p. 1]. With this sentence Roth establishes that his story is being told from an adult point of view by an adult narrator who is remembering what befell his family, over sixty years earlier, when he was a boy between the ages of seven and nine. Why else does Roth open the novel this way? What role does fear play throughout the book?
3. How plausible is the alternative history that Roth imagines? How would the world be different if America had not entered the war, or entered it on the side of Germany?
4. When the Roth family plans to go to Washington, young Philip wants to take his stamp collection with him because he fears that, since he did not remove the ten-cent Lindbergh stamp, “a malignant transformation would occur in my absence, causing my unguarded Washingtons to turn into Hitlers, and swastikas to be imprinted on my National Parks” [p. 57]. What does this passage suggest about how the Lindbergh election has affected the boy? Where else does this kind of magical thinking occur in the novel?
5. Herman Roth asserts, “History is everything that happens everywhere. Even here in Newark. Even here on Summit Avenue. Even what happens in this house to an ordinary man—that’ll be history too someday” [p. 180]. How does this conception of history differ from traditional definitions? In what ways does the novel support this claim? How is the history of the Roth family relevant to the history of America?
6. After Mrs. Wishnow is murdered, young Philip thinks, “And now she was inside a casket, and I was the one who put her there” [p. 336]. Is he to some degree responsible for her death? How did his desire to save his own family endanger hers?
7. Observing his mother’s anguished confusion, Philip discovers that “one could do nothing right without also doing something
wrong” [p. 340]. Where in the novel does the attempt to do something right also result in doing something wrong? What is “wrong”? What is Roth suggesting here about the moral complexities of actions and their consequences?
8. When Herman Roth is explaining the deals Hitler has made with Lindbergh, Roth comments, “The pressure of what was happening was accelerating everyone’s education, my own included” [p. 101]. What is Philip learning? In what ways is history robbing him of a normal childhood? Why does he want to run away?
9. What motivates Rabbi Bengelsdorf, Aunt Evelyn, and Sandy to embrace Lindbergh and dismiss Herman Roth’s fears as paranoia? Are they right to do so? In what ways do their personal aspirations affect their perceptions of what is happening?
10. In what ways are Bess and Herman Roth heroic? How do they respond to the crises that befall them? How are they able to hold their family together?
11. Roth observes that violence, when it’s in a house, is heartbreaking: “like seeing the clothes in a tree after an explosion. You may be prepared to see death but not the clothes in a tree” [p. 296]. What causes Herman Roth and Alvin to fight each other so viciously? What is it that brings the violence swirling around them off the streets and into the house? Why is violence in a home so much more disturbing than on the street or the battlefield?
12. Much is at stake in The Plot Against America—the fate of America’s Jews, the larger fate of Europe and indeed of Western civilization, but also how America will define itself. What does the novel suggest about what it means to be an American, and to be a Jewish American? How are the Roths a thoroughly American family?
13. What does the postscript, particularly “A True Chronology of the Major Figures,” add to the novel?
(Questions supplied by the publisher)
These are the provisional choices for 2017: titles suggested by members! They are not set in stone and may change according to availability of the book at the time.
Provisional titles for Spring and Summer 2017
Jan 12th Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain: Barney Norris
Feb 9th Skyfaring: Mark Vanhoenaker
March 9th His Bloody Project : Graeme Macrae Burnet
April 27th 10th Anniversary dinner out (NB NOT 2nd Thurs of month. Further details below)
May 11th The Plot Against America: Philip Roth
June 8th Work like any other: Virginia Reeves
July 13th Cry the Beloved Country : Alan Paton
BOOK CLUB NIGHT OUT
On April 27th we will be celebrating 10 years of the Linghams Book Club with a meal out at 107 Dining Room (provisionally booked) in Heswall. Please keep the date free and let us know by March 9th if you would like to be included.
PRICE: 2 courses @ £15.00 or 3 courses @ £20.00