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


Wow - Pulitizer winner - 1960. I thought it was VERY well done although thank gooodness for a cross country airplane trip. VERY thorough in the background and profile of the players - in particular the 4 senators who have their own books. The inner workings of the senate probably aren't that far off today and some of the social issues that were addressed were surprising for the 50s when this was written. Got slogged down a little in places butDrury is certainly thorough.


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.....

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.


You think Congress acted badly during the debt ceiling debate? That's nothing compared to Allen Drury's scenario.I have seen the movie several times and enjoyed it, but the book has so many more rich textures to it that it's worth the read. There were about 200 pages there (at 760 pages, it's a chore in places) where it was impossible to put down. His descriptions of Sen. Brigham Anderson's story are impeccably written.It's a little dated as references to the evil Russians and the race to the moon don't quicken the pace that much anymore. And Drury still manages to keep an optimism about the Senate that he may not share if he were still around. But he tells a great tale, and he explores the issue of gay experiences at a time when the subject was still a dangerous taboo.Read the book and see the movie, but don't expect them to be the same.

Jim Puskas

To fairly evaluate this book, one must bear in mind that it was written in 1959. Although that was hardly a time of naiive idealism, being the middle of the Cold War, our North American view of the world has surely undergone considerable loss of innocence since then. I thought it a great book in its time, probably THE preeminent political novel. In my mind it remains so today, but re-reading it this year was a far different experience. The political dance in Washington continues of course but our world has changed forever and in some ways the rules of the game are much less clear-cut than they were in 1959. Events including the Kennedy assasination, the Vietnam War, the collapse of the Soviet empire, 911, the current economic and political malaise have changed all that.I wonder what sort of book Allen Drury would write now, given his focus on the moral dilemmas faced by politicians. Already with "Capable of Honor" and "A Shade of Difference" his outlook seemed to be growing more cynical.A great human drama forms the arch of the story and that is its strength. No one could fail to be touched by the vicious and tragic destruction of a decent, courageous, implacably principled man. On the whole, the book is so well written that it survives in spite of very serioust weakness in last few pages; notably the amateurish depiction of the last confrontation with the Soviet Ambassador and the somewhat silly notion (in retrospect) that a Soviet landing on the moon would represent a serious danger to the USA. Again, one must remember that in 1959 the world was very different from today.


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.


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!

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.

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.

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.


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


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...

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.

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.

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.

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