Advise & Consent

ISBN: 1562080008
ISBN 13: 9781562080006
By: Allen Drury

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Reader's Thoughts


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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.....

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.


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.

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