Advise & Consent

ISBN: 1562080008
ISBN 13: 9781562080006
By: Allen Drury

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Reader's Thoughts

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.


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.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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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