Advise and Consent (Advise and Consent, Book 1)

ISBN: 0380010070
ISBN 13: 9780380010073
By: Allen Drury

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About this book

ADVISE AND CONSENT is a study of political animals in their natural habitat and is universally recognized as THE Washington novel. It begins with Senate confirmation hearings for a liberal Secretary of State and concludes two weeks later, after debate and controversy have exploded this issue into a major crisis."I can recall no other novel in which there is so well presented a president's dilemma when his awful responsibility for the nation's interest conflicts with a personal code of good morals." (The New York Times)

Reader's Thoughts


The winner of the 1960 Pulitzer Prize, this novel paints an interesting picture of the workings of American Government in the late 50's. Drury does a great job of building characters and follows the Presidential appointment confirmation process through the eyes of four different Senators. Interesting plot twists set against the background of the Cold War and Space Race make for an interesting read.

John Smith

Up until I picked up this book, I had never read or even attempted anything this big. I thought reading a book 400 pages was great, but to go to 600, I doubted I'd stick it out. There was no way it could keep me interested for that long. Wrong. I couldn't put this book down, I lost track of page numbers after about 50 pages and only saw the story unfold around me and I had no hurry of it ending.This is in my top 3 books read of all time, which isn't a large group of books, but I have a feeling it will stick in that range for a long time to come. Setting the bar for books I read after it.

Phil Mullen

I hesitated between 3 & 4 starts, because this book Badly Needed editing; it runs to 760 pages, & could easily have been improved by cutting down some 200 pages of wordiness.I like the conceit of 4 books, & also the way (1959) in which he presents the entire tragedy of Brig without explicitly mentioning the nature of the relationship.But it *is* a good read, even if one skips the verbiage in too many passages.

Eric Ruark

I remember being mesmerized by this series. In fact, I think it was the first 'series' of books that I read, or at least, became aware of.

Michael Austin

Though it reeks of the Cold War, Advise and Consent has a number of surprisingly modern themes. It treated Mormonism, homosexuality, and the politics of personal destruction before any of the three had an official “moment.” It was the bestselling novel of 1959, and a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot. And, for all that, it has not been in print for years. Advise and Consent tells the story of a controversial political nomination. A dying president names Robert Leffingwell—a well-known liberal, a professor, and a supporter of engagement with the Soviet Union—to be the new Secretary of State. A number of powerful senators immediately object, and, during the hearings, he is accused of hiding a Communist past. As the nomination plays out, Utah’s earnest Senator Brigham Anderson, who holds the nomination in his hands, is blackmailed by somebody aware of his homosexual past. Things, of course, go drastically astray. The most important character in the book, though, is the United States Senate itself, which Drury treats with reverence. The Senators disagree with each other, but are able to do so in a cordial way, until one senator breaks ranks with the august body and stoops to blackmail. He is the only real villain in the novel, and, once he is exorcised, the democratic process of disagreement, debate, and compromise produces a desirable result.

Geo Forman

Certainly readable but important to remember all the fears associated with USSR at the time of publication, mid-50s. Obviously written to reveal the inner workings of the senate, if only it worked as well now. No mention of lobbyists and frequent bipartisan cooperation. I liked the way the author moved from one main character to another to tell his story from different perspectives, majority leader, older statesman, established senator with designs on presidency.


Although this massive novel drags in some parts, it's a fascinating insight into the workings of the U.S. government (at least, how it may have been in the late 1950s/early 1960s; the current partisan bickering and grandstanding makes this story seem like a chronicle of a long lost era). The story, involving the Senate confirmation of a controversial Secretary of State nominee, takes numerous detours to explore the lives and histories of some of the principal characters, many of which are quite interesting. There is one unnecessary and overly melodramatic sub-plot involving a senator who is disgraced when his homosexual past is revealed - a device which certainly dates the work. Otherwise, it is well-written and offers an intriguing view of how Washington once was, when politicians actually seemed concerned about being statesmen.

Bob Almond

Outstanding political novel that was the start of series of novels picking up where the last left off and in one case splitting depending on the identity of the victim. All in all a great read with good character development but twists and turns that kept you turning the pages.

Frank Cahill

Gripping and intriguing look inside the Senate. Well written Pulitzer winner. Must read for those who enjoy good stories with a political background.


I can see why this was rated so highly at the time the time that it was written -- Drury's Washington characters were rich and well-drawn. As a Washingtonian myself, I think his ability to capture the different kinds of personal and political influences that move this town was insightful and entertaining. However, the book hinges on the what I believed, even as a middle schooler in the 60s, was a hysterical fear of the Soviets based on a testosterone-driven pissing match. As a progressive, I found the depiction of the non-aggression obsessed senator in question as a genuine threat to the country less than believable. On the other hand, to give Drury his due, the story continues today on Fox News.....


Right before I read this book, amidst a fury of partisan vitriol and intense political rancor the US Congress grudgingly voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. This came six months after another intense budget fight that threatened to shut down the federal government, and fifteen months after a supposedly cataclysmic vote on the nation’s health care policy. In each case I’ve had to think: “why can’t we all just get along?” In reading Advise and Consent I realized that the best answer to my question is simply: “because we haven’t gotten along for decades.”This hefty piece of 1950’s pop literature addresses just how a genial relationship between President and Congress can sour, and how the conflict is spun and finessed into an epic battle for the soul of America (whether it needs to be or not). Instead of a single piece of legislation, Adivse and Consent focuses on a cabinet confirmation which may, or may not, have a drastic impact on international affairs, but becomes absolutely critical to the lives of four powerful senators who anchor the story’s narration.At the time it was published, Advise and Consent might well have been a thriller of political gamesmanship and intrigue. Who was playing whom and how did each person determine what America needed? Unfortunately, reading it today makes the whole kerfuffle seem rather quaint. Jaded by the past two decades of politics I kept thinking: “really, Mr. President? You’re surprised that Congress is going to grandstand in the middle of a cabinet nomination, really?” “Really, Senator? You’re aghast at how your fellow politicians are using this conflict to enhance their own careers, really?” As a semi-serious student of the political games we play in America, I couldn’t help but smile sagely at the Capra-esque naivite of several characters...and I’m just a punk 21st Century kid, they’re the (fictional) shapers of 1950s America.So, while there’s a measure of thrilling conflict and unexpected twists throughout the book, Advise and Consent will seem to more contemporary eyes like a paleozoic insect trapped in amber. A clever story, with cute characters and a few speechifying moments that would fit right in on The West Wing, but never fly on today’s nightly news.Of course, fifty years from now who knows what some smart-alecky kid will write about our own political theatrics...


Very interesting look at how the government works. Well written.

Mia Kleve

Fascinating political thriller.This isn't usually the kind of book that I find myself picking up, but I have to say that after a slow start I had no trouble getting into it. And if you are interested at all in the inner workings of government, then you should definitely read this one.The book follows the process of the President of the United States nominating a candidate for the position of Secretary of State, and the Senate confirmation hearings, and a set of scandals which could derail the whole works.What I found most interesting about this book was the way that Allen Drury was able to write this story in the late '50's and have it be relevant today. Except for a few outdated methods of news reporting and communication the events int his book could have happened today, or yesterday, or tomorrow.

Larry Hostetler

Well-written, as one would hope with a Pulitzer-Prize winning book (although it's not always been the case). It provides an inside look at the workings of the Senate, at least as it was in the late 1950s. Interesting now in its presentation of the USSR getting to the moon first. But prescient in the assessment of the varying sides on how to deal with the Soviet Union - whether war-mongering or accommodation. The way in which Washington works, both politically and governmentally, is shown, and in a very good read. Following a Secretary of State confirmation battle through the eyes of key figures in the Senate provides us unique viewpoints while moving the story along to its conclusion - no spoiler alert needed here. Two valuable additional reasons for reading this book: while the word homosexual is never mentioned, one of the subplots includes insight into the way homosexuality was viewed in the U.S. at the time. The other reason for reading is to remind ourselves of the way in which the cold war impacted life and politics, and the great fear of future cataclysmic war which affected decision-making in so many ways. I highly recommend this novel.

Maze Branch

Donna led this discussion on 11/15/12.One patron participated in this discussion. We both enjoyed the book very much and had a worthwhile discussion on both the book and the movie. The movie is faithful to the book for the most part with alterations mostly for length. While not written as a fictionalized version of history, the author uses historical events (which he witnessed as a Washington journalist) as inspiration for some of the characters and events. When you know the facts behind this fiction you realize that "it really could happen here." Significant characters are reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt, Alger Hiss, and Joseph McCarthy.

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