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Summary

First published in 1935, when Americans were still largely oblivious to the rise of Hitler in Europe, this prescient novel tells a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy and offers an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.

Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, is dismayed to find that many of the people he knows support presidential candidate Berzelius Windrip. The suspiciously fascist Windrip is offering to save the nation from sex, crime, welfare cheats, and a liberal press. But after Windrip wins the election, dissent soon becomes dangerous for Jessup. Windrip forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state.

©1935 Sinclair Lewis. © renewed 1963 by Michael Lewis (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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A story for our times

What made the experience of listening to It Can't Happen Here the most enjoyable?

Though written in 1935 and inspired by the rise of Fascism in Europe this could read as a warning of what can happen when an unscrupulous demagogue takes on the Presidency of the USA.

What other book might you compare It Can't Happen Here to, and why?

It describes a similar kind of scenario as Philip Roths's The Plot against America.

What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

Very good reader. Really captures the different characters and makes the story live.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Some sections dealing with the mistreatment of prisoners were hard to listen to but worth it in the end.

Any additional comments?

Though there are political and philosophic parts to this book it is never heavy or hard to listen to. Beautifully written.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Not Trump but...

It's shocking to see all the similarities. The constant attack to the press, the demagogue discourse, using Mexico as a scape goat. Totally worth reading.

It's funny though how in a book that talks about censorship to the point of burning books the swear words are censored. But that's my only criticism to this production.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I kept going, "Wow, this was written in 1935?"

A disturbingly prescient book, not just from its predictions of the current Trump era but also the way it speaks about later developments in 30s and 40s.

It starts off all jolly Americana but rapidly turns into an American 1984.

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True Horror

1935?
How did he know so much about what was coming?
It’s like he lived through the 2nd World War.

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A forgotten gem rediscovered

Sinclair Lewis has long been a "name" to me but I have never actually read him. Interest in this book seems to have been rekindled by recent events in America and it is indeed a salutary reminder of the fragility of democracy. I like to imagine that the checks and balances built into the American political system would preclude such events as Lewis describes, but in an age of "false news" and digital chicanery who knows?

The ironical tone of the book is well captured by Grover Gardner's excellent reading.

Highly recommended.

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  • TheZee
  • ilford, United Kingdom
  • 14-10-17

Hauntingly Accurate

This is my first Sinclair Lewis book and I am taken by his future sense of how things can go in America if democracy is abandoned. He writes with a depth that causes deep thought. Strange as it is, Trump is Windrip! Scary and yet hopeful. The resistance of the the likes of Jessup will restore balance. This book is a must read for those who deny that this could happen.

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frighteningly good

a erie and familiar look at what could happen to the States fell to fascism

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Frightenly close to home depiction of an alternative future

A slow build up meant it took a while to get into this book. However this was important to consider the impact of political developments upon characters explored in the "pre Buzz" years. Considering when this was written (1935) the parallels with Nazi Germany and what is currently developing in America are incredible.

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Fascinating and foresightful

Fascinating story, especially when you consider when it was written. Narrator is very good also

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Timely

Worth a listen, doesn't hold together perfectly these days but still a few gems and warnings that should be heeded.

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  • David S. Mathew
  • 21-11-16

The Rise of American Authoritarianism

Written in 1935, Sinclair Lewis' novel follows newspaper man Doremus Jessup as he documents the rise of "Buzz" Windrip to the U.S. presidency. Windrip campaigns on an openly racist, misogynistic, and nationalistic platform promising to make Great Depression era America great again. Windrip's eventually beats FDR in the election and quickly turns the Presidency a violent dictatorship, creating a Nazi Germany clothed in red, white, and blue.

I won't get too political here, but it's not hard to see some similarities to modern times in this novel. Grover Gardner's voice is flawless for this sort of novel and fans of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World will certainly find this story no less fascinating. This is true lost classic and possibly one of the most important novels Americans will ever read. Very highly recommended.

63 of 67 people found this review helpful

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  • ivbell
  • 11-04-18

Parts of it HAVE happened here

I really like this book but did have some difficulties with the combination of ridiculous satire and horrifying consequences... kind of like the Trump era! A few caveats: First, in the 1930’s the Democrats were the states’ rights party. Republicans were Federalists and believers in a strong central government. FDR was an anomaly. Second, don’t worry about all those names thrown out by Lewis (including his own several times), most don’t really matter. This is really a story about how a charismatic radio personality, manipulation of the press, a slow economy, and impressionable citizens can combine to turn the US into a fascist state. There are several parallels to current times that keep it interesting. Windrip is the personality who promises the moon to the common man (read “real America”) and grabs the nomination from FDR. Jessup, the regular guy hero at the center, feels believable, as well as his close family and friends - which is good because most other characters are caricatures. I warn that it starts out seeming funny and rather silly but it gets dark and horrifying. The end is a bit positive but not neatly wrapped.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Breck
  • 10-12-16

Prophetic Horror from 1935

Wonderful reading by Grover Gardner of a book that, terrifyingly, seems as though it were written only months ago.

32 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Julie
  • 02-11-16

perfect for this election year

enthralling foreshadowing of today's politics. what goes around,... also a great lesson in freedom's fragility.

22 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • tyrone
  • 28-04-17

Great beginning

The story started great but seemed to lose its flow about 1/2 way through. Rather than tell a story the author seemed to be reciting events in bullet-points.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy Henderson
  • 04-08-16

so scary

this hits so close with the rises going on now. this man was right on the money.

24 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • CLC
  • 12-11-16

Push thru 1st few chpts. to get to the real story

First part is book is slow w\family life and town characters but push through this to get to the real horrors of life in th e US when it's taken over by narcissistic, uninfornef, uneducated, minions of a President who shares all those adjectives and more. Our protagonist and his idyllic family and town are....well, I don't want to be a spoiler so I'll stop here. But when you're done reading this book you'll see how IT CAN HAPPEN HERE.

37 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • Lilo
  • 28-07-16

Prescient

If you haven't read/listened to it, you should. Disturbing how it feels plucked from today's headlines. Chilling

20 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • DFK
  • 04-08-16

Sadly, a very timely book, and well done

OK. I don't know how political book reviews are expected to be, but it is hard not to be political with a book like "It Can't Happen Here". I think there is a pretty obvious reason that Audible has been promoting this book, and it is because of their promotion of it that I selected it, so the topic did strike a nerve. The story takes place in the 1930s, with Mussolini and Hitler in the background in Europe, and the plot basically showing how it very well could happen in the US, how Americans can fall for a demagogue and elect him in a national democratic election, and he then proceeds to rule the country with all the trappings of a dictator - military police like the SS or Gestapo, concentration camps for political prisoners and other undesirables. Just as a certain Republican candidate for president today in the US, Windrip - the elected dictator - ran on a platform fomenting hatred (in his are towards Jews, African Americans, communists, intellectuals, liberals, etc.) was a misogynist, promised economic and social reform, a return to patriotism and traditional values, Yes, he was going to make American great again! While listening to the book, I found myself feeling troubled, not just because I am convinced that it could happen in the US, but because I considered what I would do if it did happen. Some people managed to escape to Canada. Some formed an underground. Most went along, thinking they could save their skin, or, too often, to get a position or job with this new government. I know I would not go along with it and I certainly wouldn't be duped by such a person (just as I am not now duped by such an obnoxious candidate that is running right now). But I'd probably bolt ASAP and not wait and give him a chance, as many people in the story do. The most troubling aspect is that just yesterday I saw this video on the NY Times website of uncensored vitriolic language and behavior from Trump supporters (oh, whoops, I named the candidate whom this book should make you wary of) at a Trump rally, and I said: those are the people that would become Trump's military police and have no compunction about beating Muslims, Mexican immigrants, or whoever is the scapegoat of choice, if they were just given the go-ahead (and even if not) by a new president. Listen to the book and then be sure to go vote. It's up to you not to let it happen.
I didn't give 5 stars because I did feel that there was not enough plot to make the book this long. The point was made, Lewis got his idea across, and it could have been more concise. The narrator was very good, but I generally save my 5* ratings for narrators who are so good that if they read me the phone book I'd still be enthralled. This narrator was not that.

34 of 49 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 06-07-18

It’s happening here...

I bought this book right around the 2016 election but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it until now. This is an important listen because it strikes at the heart of liberal thinking. “It can’t happen here” we say, but the first third of the book has already happened here. We elected a demagogue who has no respect for the free press, Constitution, or democratic transparency, and Buzz Windrip is a perfect stand in for the current president.

While this book is semi-satirical in nature, it hits on truths that we need to wake up and see. After the book progressed past our current situation, I was saying to myself “this can’t happen here.” But now I ask myself, “can it?”

Again, this a work of satirical fiction, but it’s an important listen so we don’t follow the path of Sinclair’s totalitarian future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful