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A Shade of Difference, Allen Drury, Doubleday, 1962, 773 pp
Summary from Goodreads: The sequel to the Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller Advise and Consent. From Allen Drury, the 20th Century grand master of political fiction, a novel of the United Nations and the racial friction that could spark a worldwide powderkeg. International tensions rise as ambassadors and politicians scheme, using the independence of a small African nation as the focal point for hidden agendas. A cascade of events begun in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations could lead to the weakening of the United States, the loss of the Panama Canal, and a possible civil war.
This endless tome was the #3 bestseller in 1962. This review is the second installment of the 1962 reading challenge I set for myself in August. (For background on why 1962, see My Big Fat Reading Project.) Finishing the novel also marked the completion of my list of Top Ten Bestsellers for that year.
I read Drury's first novel, Advise and Consent, a couple years ago. That one was the #1 bestseller of 1960 and also won the Pulitzer Prize. In any case, I knew what I was getting into this time.
Drury practically invented the Washington, DC, political novel genre, though thankfully his successors have not written in such wordy and dense prose. A Shade of Difference adds the United Nations to the mix and, as foreshadowed by the title, has racism as the underlying theme, making it a timely read. It is set during a year when Civil Rights was a contentious issue in America and when many African nations were seeking independence from colonial masters.
Since you might decide to read the book, I don't want to waste your time with a wordy and dense review. Believe me, you will need that time.
Of note to me was the tension Drury built between individuals who believed that change takes time and is best done within the systems of government as opposed to those who advocated force and violence to either achieve change or prevent it. One of the moderate characters is a Black member of the House of Representatives.
I was also interested in the author's portrayal of the United Nations. That made me want to learn more about both its history and current state. Any suggestions for good books, non-fiction or novels, about the UN would be welcome.
One other thing: both of Drury's novels were written a few years before their timescapes, so all the characters are fictional, including the POTUS. I find that somewhat disorienting and have to make myself stop trying to relate the novels to actual historical events. It is eerie though how prescient he was.
In 1962 I was beginning my sophomore year in high school. Though I was mostly interested in boys, it was a time when I began to be aware of political issues, especially Civil Rights. Reading books from the 1960s that deal with what was going on, particularly behind the scenes in government, is compelling and is also filling in gaps for me, showing me the issues that have loomed so large in my adult life.