Sunday Book Review – It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Book reviews by D.G. Kaye


Since my obsession with U.S. politics has taken over I’ve read several books in this past year that were originally written as dystopian fictional stories but have become quite popular again due to the current state of politics, and compared by many to the current escalating climate of doubt shadowing the U.S. now. It seemed every time I looked for a specific book on Amazon it would ‘suggest’ books related to my search, which had me reading some of those classics and some newer ones. Books such as On Tyranny, The Handmaid’s Tale, Orwell’s 1984, and Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, present some scary scenarios with similar parallels to  the current state of the U.S. right now. As one reviewer stated, “Too painful to read. Too prescient not to.”





“The novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal.”—Salon

It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.

Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.

Called “a message to thinking Americans” by the Springfield Republicanwhen it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.


My 4 Star Review:


A haunting resemblance to the 2016 U.S. elections. This book was written in and takes place in the mid 1930s after the Great Depression, depicting a time when the people needed something ‘different’ to believe in, in hopes of a new democracy. But unfortunately, once the power greedy government took power, terror began to reign and life as previously had been known with common civility was instantly turned into a totalitarian society.

I gave this book 4 stars because as captivating as the storyline was, I found it a bit choppy to read as far as the first part of the book went where many characters were introduced at once, which made for a bit of a confusing read and had me backtracking in the book several times. And the dialogue written in vocabulary of those times was sometimes confusing to discern.

It wasn’t difficult to see that desperate people were so easily conned by president elect Buzz Windrip who claimed he was a democrat, and used his rhetoric and fake promises – among many other promises that each family would be given $5000 a year as part of his plan to get the country back up on its feet.  Racism was alive and well, and of course, the Jews and blacks were ultimately, not treated equal to the average white American as said democracy was changing into a fascist society.The then GOP was known as ‘the Corporates’, later to be known as the Corpes.

Doremus Jessup, the main character who the story revolves around, is an editor for The Informer newspaper. He can see what is happening to his country and is hellbent on publishing the truth on current state of affairs while strongly opposed to the sudden and fascist takeover of his government. As with any fascist government, the media will be persecuted if they choose to tell the truth. Slowly but surely people’s rights are taken away – women’s rights, voting rights, eliminate congress etc. as fake propaganda continues to spread. The story continues with Jessup’s objection and defiance of this new government and his will to communicate with the world what is really happening as he takes to joining underground forces to continue his mission of truth along with many other journalists who are captured, beaten, sent to concentration camps and/or eventual death. Eventually, the government catches on to Jessup’s opposition and the story unfolds as Jessup and his family are caught defying the new law and the consequences that ensue for his actions.

Spies are everywhere as the appointed ‘MM’ – minute men become the eyes and ears for the Windrip government to ensure policies are carried out. And it’s uncanny to see how easily some friends and family are shallow and blinded by this new corruption, now law, leaving many to become traitors to their own loved ones in the name of the fake promises by a lying dictator.

I will admit this book was a difficult read for me, but because of the parallels to today’s U.S. politics, I was determined to continue reading if only for my curiosity to see how the story ended. A recommended and gripping read for people who are curious to learn just how easily people can be swayed by a smooth talker instilling false hope for personal gain.