Doris Kearns Goodwin - No Ordinary Time: Franklin And Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front In World War II

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Definitely No Ordinary Time

Jun 21, 2001 (Updated Jun 21, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great history lesson. Should be required US history reading.

Cons:I want to know more. A prequel covering the depression would be interesting.

The Bottom Line: US history at it's readable best. Covers WWII in the FDR Whitehouse with facts, anecdotes and telling stories. Deserves the Pulitzer Prize it won.


POP Quiz

1. What caused the US to actively enter WWII?
a. Germany marching through Europe gobbling territory
b. Jews caused to emigrate from Europe by the Nazi regime
c. Japan bombing of Pearl Harbor
d. US military complex needing way to sell weapons

2. Who was least influential on FDR's policies?
a. Eleanor Roosevelt
b. Franklin's male cronies
c. Franklin's Vice Presidents
d. Franklin's female companions

If a WWII US history quiz on FDR's White House
made you apprehensive, No Ordinary Time is the
book for you. It will give you the answers to
these questions and more. (By the way, "C" is the
correct answer to the questions above. There was
no US military complex prior to the war and there
is scant mention of FDR's Vice Presidents in his
decision making meetings)

Written by biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, this
account of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt's
White House years during World War II won a
deserved Pulitzer Prize. Working more than
85 personal interviews with those who knew the
Roosevelts and delving through tons of archives,
Goodwin has put together a fascinating look at
this pivotal time period. 636 pages of narrative
long, I was hooked throughout. When it was over,
I actually wanted more. I wish that the epic book
would have started with Roosevelt's first year of
Presidency. The depression and New Deal times
would make for interesting reading.

Last year was the 60th anniversary of Hitler's
invasion of Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and
France. Eventually the US became involved in
this European conflict, fighting Hitler while
simultaneously battling with Japan in the Pacific.
The Pearl Harbor bombing is getting big attention
this year because of the Hollywood film. If you
or your family members were in the US during the
1940's, you were affected by this conflict.

On the home front, huge changes took place. Men
were drafted via lottery. Businesses changed to
produce weaponry to send to Britain, Russia and
other allies. Women were mobilized to work in
the defense industry. Day care, laundries and
take out food facilities were put in place to
support women leaving homemaking to make weapons.
The US moved from rural communities revolving
around agriculture to urban areas supporting
large manufacturing.

Other social changes took place. While talking about
civil liberties for Europeans, US citizens of Japanese
heritage were forced into internment camps. No
similar measures were taken against those of German
descent. Racial integration, while slow going, made
enormous progress during the war time. By the end
of the war, many black Americans were serving side
by side with caucasian troops. At the beginning
of the war, blacks (negros) were in support jobs
only.

How did all this change take place? How did the US
go from being grossly underprepared for conflict gain
an advantage in this war? Producing only a fraction
of needed weapons in 1940, the US went to having a
weapons surplus by the end of 1944.

What do you know about the big shots involved? Stalin
remained an enigma to Roosevelt. Churchill moved into
the White House for a time. He and Roosevelt developed
a remarkable alliance for the joint good of the US
and Britain. Eleanor is alternately described as a
busybody, a bad influence on Franklin, the ruler
behind the ruler or the greatest social activist of
the 20th century. Which is the more accurate picture
of this influential woman?

Interested in personal details about the Roosevelt
family? Teddy Roosevelt gave Eleanor away at her
wedding to Franklin. Franklin's mother Sara Delano
Roosevelt had a huge hold on Franklin. When he
married Eleanor, Sara ruled their home roost.
Eventually, Franklin built Eleanor a cottage at
his home estate of Hyde Park so Eleanor could
avoid battling Sara.

Four sons of Franklin and Eleanor, John, FDR Jr.,
Elliott and James and one daughter, Anna, had 19
marriages between them. 3 of the boys ran for
public office.

Early in his marriage to Eleanor, in 1918, Eleanor
discovered that Franklin was having an affair with
her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. This caused a
large rift in the marriage. Not wanting divorce,
possibly due to threats from his mother or to
political considerations, Franklin promised to
never see her again. Taking up separate bedrooms,
the marriage stayed together. Imagine Eleanor's
hurt 27 years later when she discovered that
Lucy was at Franklin's side when he died. Even
more of a betrayal was the knowledge that her
daughter, Anna, had arranged Lucy's visits with
Franklin.

Bottom line on this book is that it covers important
legislation, war time conversion to weapons production,
meetings where historic decisions were made and
personal anecdotes about the leaders and their families.
Read it and find out how Truman's Vice Presidential
selection and subsequent assumption of the Presidency
were somewhat of a fluke. Truman is the man who
unleashed the A-Bomb against Japan and presided over
VE and VJ Days. Was his selection carefully debated
when Roosevelt's 4th term running mate was decided?
You decide. Pick up the book and make a plan to go
through it. The 600+ pages read slowly so give
yourself plenty of time. But read it. It's important
for us to remember our history.




Recommend this product? Yes

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