Being Polite to Hitler

A Novel


By Robb Forman Dew

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 13, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

After teaching and raising her family for most of her life, Agnes Scofield realizes that she is truly weary of the routine her life has become. But how, at 51, can she establish an identity apart from what has so long defined her?

Often eloquent, sometimes blunt, and always full of fire, The Scofield clan is not a family that keeps its opinions to itself. As much as she’d like to, Agnes can no more deflect their adamant advice than she can step down as their matriarch. And despite her newfound freedom, Agnes finds herself becoming even more entangled in the family web. She shepherds her daughter-in-law, Lavinia, who moves in with her own two daughters to escape her husband’s drinking. She puts out fires, smoothes fraying nerves, and, stunned as anyone, receives a marriage proposal. Having expected her life to become smaller, Agnes is amazed to see it grow instead.

Robb Forman Dew intricately weaves together personal and family life into a richly wrought tapestry of the country in the 1950s and beyond. Being Polite to Hitler is a moving, frank, and surprising portrait of post-World War II America.

  • "A remarkable achievement, a vividly detailed and deeply textured mural of a century of American life.... Throughout the novel, Dew renders the political personal and the personal incandescent....She zooms into the hearts and minds of her characters with the kind of acuity that reminds us why we read."
    Rachel Basch, Washington Post
  • "Robb Forman Dew is a master at delineating the way the mundane and profound are joined at the hip, and Being Polite to Hitler in its portrait of midcentury America shuttles us smoothly from the most intimate heartbreak to events of interest worldwide, reminding us of the nearly infinite variations of grief, and solace, and how even the most conscientious and compassionate can leave emotional havoc in their wake."
    Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway
  • "Robb Forman Dew is one of our great national treasures: a novelist whose keen and sympathetic understanding of human nature is matched by her elegant, beautiful prose. Being Polite to Hitler is an absorbing story in which many readers will find their own families, and their own selves."
    Dani Shapiro, author of Family History and Devotion: A Memoir
  • "National Book Award winner Dew (for Dale Loves Sophie to Death) uses her signature elegant and often delightfully funny style to move seamlessly back and forth between the macro- and microcosm of the new America. Her latest should generate demand for the first two series titles as well."
    Beth E. Andersen, Library Journal
  • "National Book Award-winner Dew wraps up the trilogy she began with The Evidence Against Her by considering, in ways both joyful and elegiac, the juxtaposition of the profound and the mundane through the years 1953 to 1973 in smalltown Washburn, Ohio.... Agnes is clearly a literary heir of Mrs. Ramsay, and the narrative, ranging freely not only among Agnes's sprawling family but also throughout her political and cultural milieu, owes a debt to Woolf. Particularly when read in conjunction with her other novels about Washburn, Dew's latest is an impressionistic portrait of a family and an age striving for clarity and understanding."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "A winning, quietly lyrical account of a simpler time."
    Lisa Kay Greissinger, People
  • "A novel that considers, as its provocative title suggests, how people can go on being pleasant in a world that is frequently terrible....It's in her careful delineations of the quotidian that Dew writes most piercingly....She is not interested in tormenting her characters; being human every day, she feels, is hard enough."
    Suzanne Berne, The New York Times
  • "Dew's quietly powerful tale is riveting."
    Good Housekeeping
  • "highly original.... Robb Forman Dew covers both the cosmic and the quotidian as she follows a formidably intermingled group of people in the town of Washburn, Ohio. The novel, which resides mostly in the 1950s until an acceleration near the end yanks everyone all the way up to 1973, beautifully chronicles the experiences of a widowed schoolteacher, Agnes Scofield, and those in her midst.... Dew's novels identify and describe not just a town and its people but the American mind-set at particular moments in time.... Dew also sprinkles her storytelling with inventively apt asides, as when a character explains how a dog's stomach can spontaneously twist, "the way a lemon drop is wrapped." This sort of casual juxtaposition is ingenious and surprising. Being Polite to Hitler is a deeply knowing novel--progressive, certainly, and at times quietly, thrillingly strange."
    Meg Wolitzer, New York Times Book Review

On Sale
Oct 13, 2011
Page Count
320 pages
Back Bay Books

Robb Forman Dew

About the Author

Robb Forman Dew was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For the past thirty years she has lived in Williamstown, MA, where she lives with her husband, who is professor of history at Williams College.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Dew is the author of the novels Dale Loves Sophie to Death, for which she received the National Book Award; The Time of Her Life; Fortunate Lives; The Evidence Against Her; and, most recently, The Truth of the Matter; as well as a memoir, The Family Heart.

Learn more about this author