Thursday, September 08, 2016


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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. 

My Review:
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.


  1. Hmm...Interesting read. I may tackle it someday.
    It seems wordy writing was characteristic of the era. Morris West, whom you are going to tackle in 1963 (I guess), wrote like that too. He improved later.
    I, unfortunately, don't have a recommendation for you as I have hardly read anything related to the United Nations. I read the nonfiction A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (a memoir) about a boy soldier in Africa. In the last few chapters, he explains that it was through the United Nations program for Refugees, or through UNICEF (I'm not sure now) that he made it out of Africa to the United States.

  2. Uh oh. Wordy writing was a characteristic of the era, though some is better than others. I already read a Morris West book for 1961: Daughter of Silence. I didn't like it much. But yes in 1963 there is The Shoes of the Fisherman, the first of his Vatican trilogy. I do like Vatican stories though, even though I was never a Catholic. Did he improve by 1963? Good recommendation. I have wanted to read A Long Way Gone.

    1. The Shoes of the Fisherman is very wordy but I liked it a lot because I am into Vatican stuff. I didn't read the second one in the trilogy, The Clowns of God, because I read negative reviews about it. The third, Lazarus, is my favorite and that's why I said he improved. I think Lazarus is the best of the three. I also read by him one titled Eminence, which was very good too (in my opinion). I don't know the release years of the last two books. He proved prescient with his Vatican work; that's the reason I read him.

    2. Thank you very much for that analysis. I will not dread The Shoes of the Fisherman and perhaps I'll add the others even though they were not top 10 bestsellers.

  3. I remember reading Advise and Consent back in the day - it must have been in the '60s because that's when I was becoming interested in how government works. To be honest, I don't remember too much about the details of the story. I do remember that it was quite dense, but, as best I recall, I enjoyed it. I never read A Shade of Difference and I'm not sure I would want to now. The whole genre seems so dated somehow, but if you are seeking the historical perspective of that period, then I can see how these books would be useful.

    1. Dated yes, but of historical value I feel. You would have to commit to a lot of pages.

  4. I like political novels usually (I lived in the DC area 15 years I loved that stuff) but not too much wordy, dense ones. I admire that you have made it thru 1962 bestsellers, wow. Quite a heady time. I'm headed overseas tonite so I will catch more of your posts when I get back. Cheers!

  5. I'm not fond of political novels.... but I'm glad you had a great time reading this 1962 bestseller.
    PS: Yes, we had a great Saturday ☺