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

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 Except for a few outdated methods of news reporting and communication the events int his book could have happened today, or yesterday, or tomorrow.


One of the burdens of My Big Fat Reading Project (see the Writing page on my profile) is slogging my way through long tomes like Advise and Consent. It was the #4 bestseller in 1959 and went on to be the #1 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner in 1960. The New York Times Book Review stated, "Advise and Consent will stand as one of the finest and most gripping political novels of our era..." The book stayed on that paper's bestseller list for over 100 weeks!It is the story of a fictional American President's attempt to put a new Secretary of State into his cabinet, an action which requires confirmation by the Senate. Robert Leffingwell, the nominee, is seen as an appeaser of Communist Russia by the more conservative senators but is a darling of the liberals. The fight to get Leffingwell confirmed is down and dirty, ruining lives and causing great upheaval in the Senate.Interestingly, though I was being taught the forms of United States government in high school during the same time the book was popular, not much of it stayed with me. I had to do a quick review of Congressional terminology and positions, but once I got a grip on ranks such as Majority Leader, President of the Senate, Senior Senator, etc, the characters and their battles came alive. Reading the book then became an education in how the Senate works; its relationship to the Presidency, the media, and the voters back home; as well as the daily life of a Senator. (You could not pay me enough to be a Senator and I was confirmed in my belief that democracy in practice differs widely from its high flown ideals.)Advise and Consent is not the pageturner its fans claim it to be, but it is a dramatic story still read today and is considered to have started a genre: political novels set in Washington, DC. Allen Drury, who started his professional life as a US Senate correspondent for United Press International, became a ponderous fiction author. His attention to detail drove me to distraction, his characterizations are complex but artless, and he repeats himself. Compared to a civics textbook however, the book is wildly exciting and humanized the Congressional men and women we hear about in the news.I am glad I read it. The novel did more to explain the 1950s and 1960s American views on communism that almost anything else I have read so far.

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.


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


An evocative portrayal of Washington politics - Peccadiloes, leadership, stunning arrogance, and a sense of public service all mixed into a hodge podge of a narrative. I loved the way intrigue is explained in this book and the machinery of government doing all it can to sometimes help and other times derail the process of providing basic services to its people. On the whole, a bit of a labored read but enough to keep it moving at a nice pace.


Read this oldie many years ago, and always wanted to read it again. Finally finished it, and it's a wonderful book. Still pertinent today, even though it was written in the 50's. It's very long, and there are 5 more books in the series. I managed to find them all through Abebooks, so I have lots of reading to do!

Frank Stein

A strange and thoughtful novel about the nomination of a Secretary of State. This is perhaps not an obvious subject for a page-turner, but this book won the Pulitzer back when it was published in 1959 and was quickly turned into a successful (and worthwhile) film. At moments it even approaches greatness. The book focuses on a handful of Senators and their struggles over the confirmation of someone about whom they have their doubts. It is clear that Drury used his time reporting on the Senate in the early 1940s to create well-rounded characters based on real people, and sometimes the book approaches a roman a clef: The world-weary but dedicated Majority Leader Bob Munson mirrors the real former Majority Leader Alben Barkley; the ornery South Carolina Senator Seab Cooley mimics the real-life Appropriations chair Kenneth McKellar; and the nominee himself has attributes of both Alger Hiss and David Lilienthal, namely, a proud progressive with a vaguely communist past (there's even a kinda womanizing Kennedy stand-in). Perhaps most surprising, Drury takes the story of Lester Hunt, the real Senator who killed himself in 1954 when it was revealed his son was gay, and turns him into Utah Senator Brigham Anderson, a character who is in fact gay, and who wrestles with his sexuality and others' attempts to exploit it. The drawing of Anderson is touching and heartfelt for any age, but cannot help but be more so for being part of a book written for a popular audience in the 1950s.Every once in a while Drury's love of the Senate overtakes him, and reading the book becomes not a little like reading pages of the Congressional Record (something I do enough of already), and sometimes his anti-communist fervor becomes too prominent, but on the whole this is a balanced, intelligent and loving look at the Senate and the country it represents, as told through characters that one really cares about.

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.

Bill Peacock

I have been aware of Allen Drury for sometime because I had one of sequels to Advise and Consent in my bookshelf--it was originally from my mother's library. When I saw that National Review listed Advise and Consent as one of the best conservative novels, I decided I had to read it. Since I didn't have a copy, I started with what I did have, its sequel, Preserve and Protect. That meant when I did read Advise and Consent, I already knew the ultimate outcome of the story. It wasn't a bad way to read it, though i think I'd recommend the traditional order. Not because I knew the outcome of the story so much as I knew how one of the characters came to change over time. And I found I couldn't dislike him as much as I might have otherwise. Of course, not intensely disliking someone has its benefits, so I am not complaining. But whatever order in which you read them, if you are at all interested in the culture and politics of our country, you ought to read Advise and Consent. It tells us that the battle of truth versus lies is not new to 21st century politics. And that while there appears to be one side that favors truth more than another, neither side is pure. An interesting aspect of the story is that the battle over truth is largely fought within the Democratic party. Truth prevails in Advise and Consent, though at great cost. Of course, this is always true. Truth always prevails, and because of our fallen nature there is always a great cost in this process. We see this in the political battles of our day. And we see it in our families and personal lives. All of this is on display in Advise and Consent. If you are interested in seeing a great rendition of the impact of truth and lies in politics and in life, you should read Advise and Consent.


A few notes on the structure of the novel. - 616 pages overall- three 'Brigham Anderson's Book' - 277 through 448- four 'Orrin Knox's Book' - 451 through 600- five 'Advise & Consent' - 603 through 616Flashing on "Gone with the Wind" as far as reputation of the book. It's good, it's "fun" but Pulitzer winning? Maybe. Spoilers below...Post suicide - it dragged for me. Senate majority leader, supreme court justice, & presidential direct involvement in blackmail - not surprising that didn't make the 1960-whatever movie. Residual production code morality.

Roxanne Russell

This book was the last on my list to finish and be current on having read all of the Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction since 1918. It was not a particularly remarkable capstone, but it was a good read. Drury has skills as an observer of humanity and political systems (from a Western centric, white male pov) and knack for humor. He clearly knew about Washington DC. He uses plot movement narrative strategies that kep me interested- built suspense, juxtaposed events to processes in ways that weighted priorities. But something falls flat in his prose and overall narrative voice ---> too much existential analysis? too much old boys club? too similar to the heavy-moralistic and idealistic style of Aaron Sorkin? One feature of this story, that occurs towards the end **Spoiler Alert** had a memorable effect on me. Since Drury was writng contemporary fiction and imagining a world within the same international and political tensions of his time, he imagines an event, a pivotal event, in the trajectory of our national history, with the opposite outcome. Writing in 1959, Drury allows Russia to land on the moon first. All these many years of reading history never taught me as much about the zeitgeist during the Cold War and the Space Race as this mis-prediction.

Nicholas Whyte little reading project of mine: as well as reading the best-selling novels of 100 year ago, as I have done this year and last year, I decided to try the best-selling novel of 50 years ago, a political tale by a long-serving Washington journalist, which soon after (1962) became a film starring Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton (the latter's last role before he died).The plot concerns the nomination of a new Secretary of State by an ailing President whose party controls both Senate and House; the nomination runs into difficulties because of the nominee's alleged Communist past. But the young Senator from Utah who is most responsible for holding up the process is himself concealing a wartime gay love affair. High drama ensues, with a memorable series of denouements of which the least spoilerish that I can reveal is a Soviet moon landing the week before the Americans would have got there.I thought it was excellent. There are a number of well delineated characters - the Majority Leader, the ancient Senator from South Carolina, the Mormon with a past, the demagogue, the guy who wanted to be President, the President himself. The Senate is a microcosm of 100 people (99 men and one woman at that time), each with roles to play both officially and privately. Advise and Consent is an incisive description of how politics operates at that highest level, when personality as well as facts and ideology come into play. I found it difficult to put down.It has its weaknesses. The reported vehemently pro-appeasement views of the nominee for Secretary of State - and indeed the public support he gets for them - seemed to me unrealistic, though I wasn't around in the 1960s so I may not know. It's possible that Drury was reversing the political reality, as he does with the Joe McCarthy character who is a left-winger rather than a right-winger. There are four ambassadors who are minor characters; it seemed peculiar to me that they get called together twice to give the key Senators their views of what the rest of the world thinks - normal practice, round here at any rate, would be to see them separately, but of course that doesn't work for a novel like this. Also they seem to be accredited to the UN as well as to Washington but that may have been normal in 1960.But I was able to roll with the main flow and greatly enjoy the book. Apparently the Pulitzer Prize Committee in 1960 recommended that the award go to Henderson the Rain King; the main board, however, overruled them and gave it to Advise and Consent instead, and rightly so.

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.


This is rather long, and not the most fun read in the world, but it was really interesting, hence the good rating. It's a look at the inner workings of Washington politics, so it's no surprise that as someone who has limited patience for politics, it alternated between tedious and fascinating. The books set in the 1950s that I typically read are about racial tensions or the role of women, so I enjoyed seeing another side of that era that I was unfamiliar with (especially since it was not just set, but written at that time). I also appreciated that although there were certainly some aspects of the story that seemed (mostly thankfully) out-dated, most of the central issues seemed very current.

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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