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.
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.
As an aside, the title of No Ordinary Time comes from a speech Eleanor Roosevelt made before the Democratic convention.
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.
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.
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.
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.