on March 12, 2002
Advise and Consent is the story of the nomination of Robert Leffingwell for Secretary of State, and the battle within the Senate to both defeat him and confirm him. Many of the characters - the majority leader, the President, senators, and Leffingwell himself - bear startling resemblance to political characters in history such as Sen. Robert Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Alger Hiss.
Advise and Consent is one of my favorite novels for two reasons. First, it offers the best fictional "inside Washington" account, probably ever. Secondly, each character is defined expertly and painstakingly; you will rarely find better characterization in a novel then in Advise and Consent. If you're a politico, or if you're simply looking to read about complex, intelligent people with clearly defined, and sometimes insidious, goals, read Advise and Consent.
on January 2, 1999
I first read Mr. Drury's entire "Advise/Consent" series of novels when in high school and have read each book several times again since, for the pure enjoyment of it all. All books in this series were well written, with great plots and characters. One could not help but feel as if one was part of the story. The plots could very well be characterizations of today's leaders and situations, both racial and political. Also, the way Mr. Drury split off into 2 story-lines on how each presidency would look had one man lived and the other died in the last novel of this series was pure genius and writing at its best!! The "Advise and Consent" novel was a VERY GOOD and EXCELLENT story of how the Senate goes about its business and the viciousness of politics. It was very exciting and a very fast read, NOT BORING as Mr. Leffingwell would have us all believe. For a good companion to this first novel, I would highly recommend the movie version of "Advise and Consent," starring Henry Fonda.
on June 10, 2000
Allen Drury, a former AP reporter wrote this novel in 1959 and it instantly became a bestseller and deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize. No one else since Drury has been able to capture political institutions as they are to construct a compelling story. In the end "Advise And Consent" would spawn five sequels that proved equally compelling as well.
Sadly, Allen Drury's stature as an author has always been downplayed by critics because alone among authors, he was a political conservative who often used his novels to make devastating indictments of the liberal news media and liberal politicians. And this is something that most critics always use as an excuse to condemn Drury's writings (there is never any similar litmus test applied by critics when it comes to the rampant leftism of an author like Gore Vidal). And yet, go through Drury's "Advise And Consent" series and you will find more insights into 1960s America than you will find from any other novelist.
Advise and Consent is a Pulitzer Prize winner that's sat on my shelf for many years. It's always seemed interesting, but 760 (long) pages is always daunting to me. I think that the current election season, though, got me in the mood to tackle it, and I'm glad that it did. It's been one of the best reads of the summer.
Advise and Consent is a big soap opera (which is not a bad thing, in this instance) that's very loosely based on some pretty scandalous events that took place in the Senate during the McCarthy Era (look up Sens. Lester Hunt, Styles Bridges, and Herman Welker when you're finished reading the novel). Events are set into motion when, at a precarious point in the Cold War, the President nominates a controversial diplomat, Robert Leffingwell, to be his new Secretary of State.
The appointment shocks everyone on both sides of the aisle. The Majority Leader, Bob Munson, starts working to set people in line to assure Leffingwell's passage, while his opposition, a wily Southern Senator named Seab Cooley, begins conniving to topple the slick nominee's chances. For the first almost-third of the book, that's about all that happens. It's pleasant enough, with a 1950's sense of humor and some decently drawn (though occasionally stereotypical) characters, but to be honest, the book felt for a while like it might just be a civics lesson masquerading as a novel. I was wrong.
Sen. Brigham Anderson is appointed to head a subcommittee to investigate and question the nominee, and all hell breaks loose. I won't say what all happens, but the political and personal stakes end up being much higher than anyone expected when Leffingwell was nominated. And several of the characters have skeletons hidden in their closets, while others lack the scruples to avoid bringing them out.
All-in-all, I found it to be a satisfying page-turner, a surprisingly progressive novel, and a sadly forgotten one. Several other novels from 1959 (i.e. Henderson the Rain King, A Separate Peace) are much more prominent now, but I'm not sure that Advise and Consent isn't the best of them.
on June 15, 2004
One of the more enduring books of American literature, Advise and Consent appears to withstand the test of time. Well written, very gripping and a real page turner, it was no surprised that many people even today, would pick up this book to read. There was a movie based on this book which was also pretty good.
This is however a first book in a series although it can be a stand alone book. I would probably recommended that since the series can be somewhat of a let down after a such a fine novel. Technically speaking, the series that follows Advise and Consent branched off to two separate direction. One direction leads the United States into ruins while other direction leads the United States into victory and renewal over our enemies. The situation can get pretty soap opera-like and after you are done, it also felt bit dated.
Thus, I would recommended that you stick with this book alone and forget the series.
on August 28, 1999
What a novel! I understand why it stayed more than 100 weeks on the New York Times best sellers list when Drury's book was released in 1960. It is very well written novel with a brilliant plot. To love this book I think that you have to be, like me, very found of politics; but to just like it you only have to love good and clever books. The author knows its subject perfectly well and he ables you to understand better how U.S. politics works. Even if the book got a lot of pages it doesn't seem long at all. You will be sad when you will get to the last page: you'll ask for more! As you may have guessed, I highly recommend you this masterpiece.
This is a classic novel that deals with the nomination by the President of a highly controversial person for the office of Secretary of State. A group of Senators is dead set against the nominee, and others are equivocal and unsure. The nominee has a dark past and this begins to come to light, the question is asked as to whether he has overcome this past and can now serve as a sturdy and reliable public servant.
The novel portrays Washington DC as a snake pit of intrigue and maneuvering, where anything goes in an endless struggle for power and position. It also shows America's capitol as a city which still has a place for idealism and principles. No, these two things are not contradictory, as this novel also shows.
The story moves along at a brisk pace, although it slows down in places. This novel was written in the early 1960s, and thus the story contains certain anachronisms, such as the Soviet Union reaching the Moon before the United States does. The novel also has an intolerant and non-contemporary view of homosexuality, which is unfortunate, but which ultimately does not detract from the story. (The movie is far worse in this respect, incidentally.) No matter. This novel is as relevant today as it was when it was written, at the height of the good old Cold War.
One of the oddities of this novel is that almost all of the conflict occurs within the majority party (although unnamed, it is the Democrats.) The minority party (Republicans) play almost no role whatever, and the novel barely acknowledges that they exist. This is the Democrats of the 1960s, when that party was much more conservative than it is today.
This is an excellent novel that should be required reading for all high school and college students.
on July 1, 1999
Like many other people, I first read this American classic for high school civics. I've since reread it twice more, and it's worth it. "Advise and Consent" is a painless education in how the Congress works, and no wonder! Drury was a Capitol Hill reporter for many years (I believe he started in Truman's administration).
Aside from his political knowledge, Drury's characters stay with you - they seem to be VERY real people. Action is, of course, laced with the 1950's modality, as well as the definite Cold War fears. Drury definitely deserved the Pulitzer Prize for this one!
on January 22, 2004
Allen Drury, the reporter/writer, reminds me of Mendelssohn who wrote his "Midsummer Nights Dream" before age 20 and never surpassed its perfection the rest of his life. So too did Drury attain near perfection this one time yet never scaled the heights again. Instead, he devolved into a good - but not great - series that turned redundant and boring.
This is the story of Brig, the honest Mormon Senator from Utah, and the dangerous Senator from Utah who will stop at nothing in his drive for power. It is about the Senate body before the days of victory at all costs, the give and take. It concerns the perogatives of a President and an appointment based on a lie. But most of all it is about Seab Cooley, the last of the old Southern Senators, the warhorse from South Carolina. Of all the characters, he shines forth with his droopy expression, affected speech and his ferocious sense of right and wrong. The scene where he discovers that his pursuit of the truth has cost the life of a friend is untouchable. The movie of the same name was good for its time but could never match the depths of emotions to which we are plunged. I especially thought the changed ending was a travesty.
This is such a great book I have reread it at least five times. By all means, order the hardback since I can testify that a paperback will not hold up to repeated use.
on July 29, 2009
The New York Times Book Review had an article several weeks ago about this book and made me want to reread it. I probably was a teen when I read it and snippets of it came back to me. There are several points that were so interesting. First the revisiting of the Communist threat as seen in those days, matched by the feeling that our country had lost the Cold War. Second identifying some of the major players such as Roosevelt and I think Stevenson. The portrait of Joe McCarthy was fascinating.
Most importantly, it raises issues that are with us today under different garb. How relevant is a person's past in considering them for a position? I read this during the Soutemayer confirmation hearings. Without passing judgement, does it really matter what she said 20 years ago. I also wonder if the Senate is as polite now as it was then, if it ever was so polite.
If one wants a taste of history this is a must read if you can find it. The only negative is that there are long sections which are inside Washington that could be removed. A quibble only.