Thursday, April 20, 2017

No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin

My book for April was No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I finished reading the book on the flight to New York City during our East Coast Easter Trip. The book was awarded the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History.

This is part of my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. This book is on a Washington Post list of recommended books for each president.

The book focuses on the period between May 10, 1940 (the end of the so-called "Phoney War" stage of World War II) and President Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. While there is a lot going on in the book in a wide variety of areas including race relations, women in the workforce and labor relations, I was struck by three things.

First, Eleanor and Franklin really lived separate lives with a number of people revolving around them. Eleanor had Joe Lash and Lorena Hickok, while Franklin had Lucy Mercer, Missy LeHand, Margaret Suckley, Laura Delano, Crown Princess Martha of Norway and Harry Hopkins. The number of different people living with the Roosevelts in the White House is fascinating. It would be impossible for them to maintain these kinds of relationship in this era of press coverage and social media.

Second, I never really appreciated how wheelchair bound FDR was. There are very, very few pictures that captured him in a wheelchair. Additionally, even as Franklin was running for a fourth term, his health was not good.

Third, I didn't understand how engaged Eleanor was in social issues. She used her position to travel the world and poke her nose in all kinds of places.

This is a very good book. I have always enjoyed Goodwin's writing style. I give it a "A-" and recommend it. It is an interesting look at War World II from a very different angle. My only qualm is that there are a couple of themes that get a little repetitive.

At the end of the book, Eleanor Roosevelt is cleaning out the White House. It talks about how the Truman's came to visit their new home and were appalled at the condition of the living quarters. This reminded me that I had The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence on the book shelf. I turned right around and started reading this book.

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