Advise & Consent

ISBN: 1562080008
ISBN 13: 9781562080006
By: Allen Drury

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Reader's Thoughts


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


This was a very good story and felt a little bit like an old-time Hugo/Dimas novel, with a large cast and lots of intrigue, blackmail, anonymous sources, etc. It's about the Senate's debate on whether to confirm the President's controversial nominee for Secretary of State. The drama is first rate but it's also got the kind of random tangents and filler that made me think of Hugo/Dumas. So it's nowhere near as extreme as them, but it'd get 5 stars if it were 20% shorter.


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.

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.


A truly excellent book. Very informative and interesting. If you want to get a closer look at how Washington politics and especially the senate work look no further.I think every American should read it. It is deep in more ways than one and shows how much we've changed since it was written (and takes place) in 1958-9ish.If I were capable of making a list of my top 10 or 20 books, this one would almost certainly be on it.

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.


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.....

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