No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Hardcover, 1994

Call number




Simon & Schuster (1994), Edition: First Edition, 759 pages


The United States of 1940, an isolationist country divided along class lines, still suffering the ravages of a decade-long depression, and woefully unprepared for war, was unified by a common threat and by the extraordinary leadership of Franklin Roosevelt to become, only five years later, the preeminent economic and military power in the world. At the center of the country's transformation was the complex partnership of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin knew the war could not be won without focusing the energies of the American people and expanding his base of support -- making his peace with conservative leaders and gaining the cooperation of big business. Eleanor, meanwhile, felt the war would not be worth winning if the old order of things at home prevailed, and was often at odds with her husband in her efforts to preserve the gains of the New Deal and achieve reforms in civil rights, housing, and welfare programs. While Franklin manned the war room at the White House and met with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Mackenzie King, and other world leaders to discuss strategy for the war abroad, Eleanor crisscrossed the country, visiting the American people, seeing how the war and policies her husband made in Washington affected them as individuals. Using diaries, interviews, and White House records of the president's and first lady's comings and goings, Goodwin paints a detailed, intimate portrait not only of the daily conduct of the presidency during wartime but of the Roosevelts themselves and their extraordinary constellation of friends, advisers, and family, many of whom lived with them in the White House: Missy LeHand, FDR's "other wife" and secretary; Harry Hopkins, FDR's closest friend and adviser; the president's indomitable mother, Sara; the Roosevelts' daughter, Anna; Eleanor's close friends Lorena Hickock and Joe Lash; Crown Princess Martha of Norway; FDR's former lover Lucy Rutherfurd, who, in a final, painful blow to Eleanor, was with him when he died. Bringing to bear the tools of both history and biography, Goodwin relates the unique story of how Franklin Roosevelt, surrounded by his small circle of intimates, led the nation to military victory abroad against seemingly insurmountable odds and, with Eleanor's essential help, forever changed the fabric of American society.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member seoulful
The author is a master at producing both a well-researched and very readable history. This time she tackles the wartime Roosevelts providing background biographical material as needed for context. A good balance of world events and the personal lives of the Roosevelts.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
This is a quick read. In a nutshell, it's a condensed biography of Franklin, Eleanor, their marriage, and life at home during World War II. The biographies of Franklin and Eleanor are not anything new. If you have read even one other biography of the couple you'll find all the details worth mentioning are the same. Considering Eleanor destroyed most of her correspondences it would be difficult for a biographer to come up with anything astonishing and unheard of before. The biography of Franklin and Eleanor's marriage is treated with respect and without judgment. We all know about the other women: Missy, Lorena, and Lucy. But it is the biography of World War II's home front that makes No Ordinary Time a pleasure to read. I've always known women made sacrifices for the war effort; rationing and even going without certain materials. But, I admit I did not know about the girdle protest. Goodwin's description of Eleanor protesting the inability to wear a girdle for "health" reasons was humorous and fascinating.

As an aside, the title of No Ordinary Time comes from a speech Eleanor Roosevelt made before the Democratic convention.
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LibraryThing member neddludd
It is hard to imagine popular history being better--or more definitive. Using dozens of interviews, diary citations, private correspondence, oral histories, and more traditional sources, the reader becomes a fly on the wall in the White House from FDR's first inauguration in 1932 (with references to earlier times as well for both FDR and ER) to his death in 1945. In one sense, the volume is an example of how press coverage of the Presidency has changed. Not one photo was ever taken showing FDR as a victim of polio, unable to move his legs at all. His affair with Lucy Mercer is examined in detail from its first moments during the First World War to its resumption in the later years of WWII (facilitated by FDR's daughter Anne); yet, no reporter ever mentioned the liaiason. The FDR-ER marriage was atypical: the love of a brother and sister perhaps, but not of a husband and wife. After ER found out about the Mercer affair in 1918, she never again shared FDR's bedroom. Yet the two were dependent upon each other totally to validate and explicate their lives. FDR's charm, political skill, courage, and all-around greatness emerges: Winston Churchill was completely smitten by the man. (There's entertaining material on Churchill as well.) ER emerges as a great woman whose place in American history should be almost as high as her husband's. However, she is also seen as someone who hectored FDR daily; she was incapable of relaxation and drove everyone around her to work and do more work. A headline in a Washington paper described her independence--and frequent separations--from her husband: "ER spends night in White House!" It becomes obvious why FDR might seek a less demanding and abrasive companion, as he was able to carry great loads and still pause to enjoy cocktail chatter each evening. ER was an early and very public advocate of civil rights, of women's workplace equality and independence, of the idea of a comprehensive Federal safety net (including decent housing and daycare) decades before others. She had many intimate relationships with both women and men (although it is not conclusive whether any of these reached the sexual stage). Certainly other women were in love with her, just as many, especially in conservative parts of the nation (such as the south) found her advocacy to be totally inappropriate and offensive. There was no such ambivalence about FDR: when he died, the whole nation was shocked and mournful; millions stood waiting for his train-borne casket to pass at all hours of the day and night, and in all weather. He emerges as one this country's most beloved leaders ever, someone who defined American greatness in the first half of the 20th century.… (more)
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a great book and it's no surprise why it won the Pulitzer Prize. It is dense, but I like Doris Goodwin's writing style and there is a lot of detail and information contained in this book on President Roosevelt, his wife, and the home front. Not only does Ms. Goodwin tell the story of the American homefront starting in 1940, but she weaves in a biography of both Eleanor and Franklin at the same time so the reader understands what went on prior to 1940 in their personal lives. By weaving in the biography, readers who are familiar with their backstories won't get bored and readers who are not familiar with it, learn it.

This book is a good addition to the historiography of this time period because not only is it an interesting book, but it is well-researched and gave the reader a great deal of information. The reader really gets a sense of what the home front was like and what FDR did (or didn't do) to prepare the US.

I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in this time period, WWII, or FDR.
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LibraryThing member kaulsu
Excellent! Goodwin has done a masterful job researching this book. How much richer a book that included both of the formidable team of Franklin & Eleanor.

The Kindle digitation, however, was the worst I have seen to date. Not only were whole sentences scrambled, but the connection to footnotes was very poor. I finally had to give up.… (more)
LibraryThing member SCRH
This book served as a window through which to look at one of the more important periods in the history of the United States -- a few years prior to, and after, my birth year of 1942. My entire life has been influenced by the Roosevelt years and what a wonderful job Doris Kearns Goodwin did in describing them.

I had no idea how loose-knit the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor was. Ms Goodwin did a masterful job weaving the fabrics of two dissimilar lives into one intimate, but beautiful tapestry. She is well-deserving of all the awards she received for her work.

The chapters which included the interfacing of Roosevelt and Churchill were especially enjoyable.

Among the more obscure facts that I found intriguing was that among the four Roosevelt sons they were married a total of 18 times.

The book is heavily footnoted and includes an index.
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LibraryThing member dianaleez
A fascinating read. Well researched and easy to read. I'd always wondered what Franklin and Eleanor were really like, and now I know.
LibraryThing member nancyprovince
I really loved this book. Doris Kerns Goodwin is a great author.
LibraryThing member ktleyed
A mammoth sized bio of the Roosevelt's leading up to and during WWII, fascinating on audiobook, though it took forever. I must admit, I quizzed my mother and father-in-law much of the time while listening to this. Peppering them with questions about what it was like back when they were teenagers during the war and what were their memories of FDR and Eleanor. I really enjoyed this! A must for anyone that's interested in this time period and FDR. Not much more to say than that!… (more)
LibraryThing member Jua
I am astounded by the research that must have been done for this book. Included historical fact as well as personal detail. I want to know even more about the Roosevelts and the era.
LibraryThing member NellieMc
Highly interesting and very detailed exploration of the Roosevelt White House during WW II, looked at through the relationship of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Very well researched and documented. I did, however, get the feeling that Goodwin was more sympathetic to Eleanor than Franklin and, in particular with Eleanor's stronger liberal leanings, and this colored the book a bit. But I think she was fair to Franklin overall and, as such the book was quite insightful.… (more)
LibraryThing member Joanne53
A n in depth study of the view from the White House of America's Homefront during WWII and the policies, politics and family that changed our world forever. An amazing story.
LibraryThing member Joanne53
A n in depth study of the view from the White House of America's Homefront during WWII and the policies, politics and family that changed our world forever. An amazing story.
LibraryThing member christinejoseph
Pulitzer Prize
Eleanor + FDR — excellent

Winner of the Pulitzer for History, No Ordinary Time is a chronicle of one of the most vibrant & revolutionary periods in US history. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin weaves together a number of story lines—the Roosevelt’s marriage & partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, & FDR’s White House & its impact on America as well as on a world at war.… (more)
LibraryThing member Alphawoman
Dense book with a zillion actors explaining the dynamics between Eleanor and Franklin. I have to admit, Eleanor was a force to he reckoned with.

It's a comfort to read about the enormous problems that we faced during the 1930's and 40's and we survived. Today our government is in a shambles and the country divided. We're facing conflicting ideas concerning immigration , health care, climate control, race relations. These problems are not so far removed from the problems of yesterday.

I believe our society is basically good. Given the facts I believe we do the right thing. The Japanese internment camps were wrong. Turning away Jewish refugees fleeing persecution was wrong. Our tendency to be isolationists is wrong and we learned, at least I hope so.
I have never been a student of history until the twilight of my years. Its eye opening to realize not much has changed. People do not evolve quickly, yet when it happens it's like a sea change.

ER & FDR did much to shape our society in America as it is today. They did much to save the world.
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LibraryThing member flippinpages
Amazing book. Perfect blend of the personal and political lives of the Roosevelts.




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