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

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

4.3 91
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
 

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From the bestselling author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream comes a compelling chronicle of a nation and its leaders during the period when modern America was created. Presenting an aspect of American history that has never been fully told, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how the isolationist and divided

Overview

From the bestselling author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream comes a compelling chronicle of a nation and its leaders during the period when modern America was created. Presenting an aspect of American history that has never been fully told, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how the isolationist and divided United States of 1940 was unified under the extraordinary leadership of Franklin Roosevelt to become, only five years later, the preeminent economic and military power in the world.

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.

Bringing to bear the tools of both history and biography, No Ordinary Time relates the unique story of how Franklin Roosevelt led the nation to victory against seemingly insurmountable odds and, with Eleanor's essential help, forever changed the fabric of American society.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Goodwin's account of the Roosevelt presidency during WWII highlights America's changing domestic front. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Goodwin (The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, LJ 2/15/87) here focuses upon the wartime White House, "a small, intimate hotel" frequented by Churchill, Harry Hopkins, Lorena Hickock, Missy LeHand, and other guests of the state and of the Roosevelts. Goodwin's eye for life's details catches Franklin's ongoing quarrel with the kitchen, the feel of the map room, Eleanor's unease at the cocktail hour, FDR's delight in this ritual, and many other scenes. Her portraits of ER and FDR are highly sympathetic, showing them heroically-but by no means flawlessly-leading an unwilling nation into the wartime effort that helped defeat the Axis and changed America unimaginably. Goodwin's narrative, based upon interviews and other primary research and deeply informed by the scholarship of others, will keep company with the best works in the vast Roosevelt canon and will absorb and delight a wide readership. For all libraries.-Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
Ilene Cooper
People often say they don't like to read history because it's so dry. They apparently have not read history the way Goodwin writes it. The subtitles set the order of importance here: first come the Roosevelts--the ever cool, ever charming Franklin, and his conscience, Eleanor--set against the background of World War II as it was waged on the home front. By the time we finish this more than 800-page study, we feel as if we have been present during the events described, as if we have known the players. And what a group of players they were. Goodwin uses the setting of the home front quite literally, focusing on the White House itself, which was a veritable boardinghouse, home to an odd assortment of ducks including the president's sickly, irreplaceable associate Harry Hopkins; Hopkins' young daughter, Missy LeHand, FDR's secretary and confidant, who was desperately in love with her boss; and Lorena Hickok, a onetime journalist who was desperately in love with Eleanor--and those were just the regular roomers. The story could turn on that plot alone, but there was also a war going on, and Goodwin is as capable of deciphering world events as she is people. Though she never shies away from discussing battle strategy when appropriate, she always maintains her focus on how the war affected life over here. In this context, the evolution of social problems in the U.S.--especially the treatment of minorities and women (shepherded by their patron saint, Eleanor)--becomes a major theme in the book. In fact, readers gain a real understanding of the genesis of many of our current social ills. But always, Goodwin makes us see the Big Picture in terms of individual lives. Emerson once said, "There is no history, only biography." This book makes that quote a living, breathing reality.
Christopher Lehmann-Hautt
Goodwin has pulled off the double trick of making Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt seem so monumental as to have come from a very distant past, and at the same time so vital as to have been alive only yesterday.
New York Times
David M. Kennedy
Engrossing…No Ordinary Time is no ordinary book…An ambitiously conceived and imaginatively executed participants eye view of the United States in the war years… The sheer abundance of colorful biographical anecdotes and the cumulative weight of telling detail sustain and atmosphere of immediacy and leave a lastingly vivid impression.
New York Times Book Review
Linda Gordon
The Roosevelt marriage is endlessly gripping because it was so consequential…The reader feels like a resident in the White House.
Boston Sunday Globe
Kenneth C. Davis
A thoroughly terrific and important work, a valuable edition to Roosevelt literature… Goodwin has deftly reminded us just how extraordinary FDR and Eleanor were in 'no ordinary time.'
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
The New York Times
“Goodwin has pulled off the double trick of making Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt seem so monumental as to have come from a very distant past, and at the same time so vital as to have been alive only yesterday.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Engrossing . . . No Ordinary Time is no ordinary book. . . . An ambitiously conceived and imaginatively executed participant’s eye view of the United States in the war years. . . . The sheer abundance of colorful biographical anecdotes and the cumulative weight of telling detail sustain an atmosphere of immediacy and leave a lastingly vivid impression.”
The Boston Globe
“The Roosevelt marriage is endlessly gripping because it was so consequential. . . . The reader feels like a resident in the White House.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“A tale rendered nearly seamless by Goodwin’s skills as a reporter and writer, and by the immense entanglement of her subjects’ private and public lives. How their talents, insecurities, and demons impacted on the country and the world will be much better understood with the publication of this remarkable book.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A thoroughly terrific and important work, a valuable addition to Roosevelt literature. . . . Goodwin has deftly reminded us just how extraordinary FDR and Eleanor were in ‘no ordinary times.’”
From the Publisher
“Goodwin has pulled off the double trick of making Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt seem so monumental as to have come from a very distant past, and at the same time so vital as to have been alive only yesterday.”

“Engrossing . . . No Ordinary Time is no ordinary book. . . . An ambitiously conceived and imaginatively executed participant’s eye view of the United States in the war years. . . . The sheer abundance of colorful biographical anecdotes and the cumulative weight of telling detail sustain an atmosphere of immediacy and leave a lastingly vivid impression.”

“The Roosevelt marriage is endlessly gripping because it was so consequential. . . . The reader feels like a resident in the White House.”

“A tale rendered nearly seamless by Goodwin’s skills as a reporter and writer, and by the immense entanglement of her subjects’ private and public lives. How their talents, insecurities, and demons impacted on the country and the world will be much better understood with the publication of this remarkable book.”

“A thoroughly terrific and important work, a valuable addition to Roosevelt literature. . . . Goodwin has deftly reminded us just how extraordinary FDR and Eleanor were in ‘no ordinary times.’”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671642402
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
09/01/1994
Pages:
768
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.64(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"THE DECISIVE HOUR HAS COME"

On nights filled with tension and concern, Franklin Roosevelt performed a ritual that helped him to fall asleep. He would close his eyes and imagine himself at Hyde Park as a boy, standing with his sled in the snow atop the steep hill that stretched from the south porch of his home to the wooded bluffs of the Hudson River far below. As he accelerated down the hill, he maneuvered each familiar curve with perfect skill until he reached the bottom, whereupon, pulling his sled behind him, he started slowly back up until he reached the top, where he would once more begin his descent. Again and again he replayed this remembered scene in his mind, obliterating his awareness of the shrunken legs inert beneath the sheets, undoing the knowledge that he would never climb a hill or even walk on his own power again. Thus liberating himself from his paralysis through an act of imaginative will, the president of the United States would fall asleep.

The evening of May 9, 1940, was one of these nights. At 11 p.m., as Roosevelt sat in his comfortable study on the second floor of the White House, the long-apprehended phone call had come. Resting against the high back of his favorite red leather chair, a precise reproduction of one Thomas Jefferson had designed for work, the president listened as his ambassador to Belgium, John Cudahy, told him that Hitler's armies were simultaneously attacking Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. The period of relative calm -- the "phony war" that had settled over Europe since the German attack on Poland in September of 1939 -- was over.

For days, rumors of a planned Nazi invasion hadspread through the capitals of Western Europe. Now, listening to Ambassador Cudahy's frantic report that German planes were in the air over the Low Countries and France, Roosevelt knew that the all-out war he feared had finally begun. In a single night, the tacit agreement that, for eight months, had kept the belligerents from attacking each other's territory had been shattered.

As he summoned his military aide and appointments secretary, General Edwin "Pa" Watson, on this spring evening of the last year of his second term, Franklin Roosevelt looked younger than his fifty-eight years. Though his hair was threaded with gray, the skin on his handsome face was clear, and the blue eyes, beneath his pince-nez glasses, were those of a man at the peak of his vitality. His chest was so broad, his neck so thick, that when seated he appeared larger than he was. Only when he was moved from his chair would the eye be drawn to the withered legs, paralyzed by polio almost two decades earlier.

At 12:40 a.m., the president's press secretary, Stephen Early, arrived to monitor incoming messages. Bombs had begun to fall on Brussels, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, killing hundreds of civilians and destroying thousands of homes. In dozens of old European neighborhoods, fires illuminated the night sky. Stunned Belgians stood in their nightclothes in the streets of Brussels, watching bursts of anti-aircraft fire as military cars and motorcycles dashed through the streets. A thirteen-year-old schoolboy, Guy de Liederkirche, was Brussels' first child to die. His body would later be carried to his school for a memorial service with his classmates. On every radio station throughout Belgium, broadcasts summoned all soldiers to join their units at once.

In Amsterdam the roads leading out of the city were crowded with people and automobiles as residents fled in fear of the bombing. Bombs were also falling at Dunkirk, Calais, and Metz in France, and at Chilham, near Canterbury, in England. The initial reports were confusing -- border clashes had begun, parachute troops were being dropped to seize Dutch and Belgian airports, the government of Luxembourg had already fled to France, and there was some reason to believe the Germans were also landing troops by sea.

After speaking again to Ambassador Cudahy and scanning the incoming news reports, Roosevelt called his secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and ordered him to freeze all assets held by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg before the market opened in the morning, to keep any resources of the invaded countries from falling into German hands.

The official German explanation for the sweeping invasion of the neutral lowlands was given by Germany's foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Germany, he claimed, had received "proof" that the Allies were engineering an imminent attack through the Low Countries into the German Ruhr district. In a belligerent tone, von Ribbentrop said the time had come for settling the final account with the French and British leaders. Just before midnight, Adolf Hitler, having boarded a special train to the front, had issued the fateful order to his troops: "The decisive hour has come for the fight today decides the fate of the German nation for the next 1000 years."

There was little that could be done that night -- phone calls to Paris and Brussels could rarely be completed, and the Hague wire was barely working -- but, as one State Department official said, "in times of crisis the key men should be at hand and the public should know it." Finally, at 2:40 a.m., Roosevelt decided to go to bed. After shifting his body to his armless wheel chair, he rolled through a door near his desk into his bedroom.

As usual when the president's day came to an end, he called for his valet, Irvin McDuffie, to lift him into his bed. McDuffie, a Southern Negro, born the same year as his boss, had been a barber by trade when Roosevelt met him in Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1927. Roosevelt quickly developed a liking for the talkative man and offered him the job of valet. Now he and his wife lived in a room on the third floor of the White House. In recent months, McDuffie's hard drinking had become a problem: on several occasions Eleanor had found him so drunk that "he couldn't help Franklin to bed." Fearing that her husband might be abandoned at a bad time, Eleanor urged him to fire McDuffie, but the president was unable to bring himself to let his old friend go, even though he shared Eleanor's fear.

McDuffie was at his post in the early hours of May 10 when the president called for help. He lifted the president from his wheelchair onto the narrow bed, reminiscent of the kind used in a boy's boarding school, straightened his legs to their full length, and then undressed him and put on his pajamas. Beside the bed was a white-painted table; on its top, a jumble of pencils, notepaper, a glass of water, a package of cigarettes, a couple of phones, a bottle of nose drops. On the floor beside the table stood a small basket -- the Eleanor basket -- in which the first lady regularly left memoranda, communications, and reports for the president to read -- a sort of private post office between husband and wife. In the corner sat an old-fashioned rocking chair, and next to it a heavy wardrobe filled with the president's clothes. On the marble mantelpiece above the fireplace was an assortment of family photos and a collection of miniature pigs. "Like every room in any Roosevelt house," historian Arthur Schlesinger has written, "the presidential bedroom was hopelessly Victorian -- old-fashioned and indiscriminate in its furnishings, cluttered in its decor, ugly and comfortable."

Outside Roosevelt's door, which he refused to lock at night as previous presidents had done, Secret Service men patrolled the corridor, alerting the guardroom to the slightest hint of movement. The refusal to lock his door was related to the president's dread of fire, which surpassed his fear of assassination or of anything else. The fear seems to have been rooted in his childhood, when, as a small boy, he had seen his young aunt, Laura, race down the stairs, screaming, her body and clothes aflame from an accident with an alc

Meet the Author

Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. She won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II and is also the author of the bestsellers Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, Richard N. Goodwin.

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No Ordinary Time 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 91 reviews.
BSA441 More than 1 year ago
Doris Kearns Goodwin is a master at entertaining while educating, and in this book she takes the reader on an incredible journey which starts when Nazi Germany seemed unstoppable (1940). We get a detailed view of the Roosevelt White House with its full cast of characters, and never lose sight of the two geniuses, FDR and Eleanor, who were at its core. The author shows in great detail how the war was won by the frantic and urgent conversion of American industry into the " Arsenal of the Free World" and also how those intense fruitful war years also set the stage for the Civil Rights movements of later years. Never dry, the author's keen sense of detail make this era come alive for the reader. This book is highly recommended to any history enthusiast as well as those particularly interested in the World War Two era.
MelissaTexas More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Its 900+ pages. It covered a time I've heard about from parents and grandparents in great detail. The remaking of America into the war machine that saved the world. The sacrifices of the entire population at home and on the battlefields. Also, the dynamic characters of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. A good read if you enjoy history.
JudyinWashington More than 1 year ago
This is a great book whether you are a history buff like me or not. Doris Kearns Goodwin takes the reader behind the scenes in one of the most difficult times in world history. Once you begin reading, it is hard to put the book down.
JackieAnn More than 1 year ago
As a child of a World War II veteran, I found this book fasinating. I never studied what happened during the years prior to Pearl Harbor and also the election of Roosevelt to a third term. All is very interesting. The 900+ pages went fast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should be required reading. Fascinating historically. A peek into the private thoughts and interior lives of the Roosevelts. Debunks a lot of the common myths surrounding them, particularly the president.
Guest More than 1 year ago
She truly captured the white house, close ties to the whitehouse, as well as personal things relating to this great time in our history
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It took me awhile to read, as it is so full of information that I had to take notes and go back to check facts as I read. I loved Eleanor even more after this book, and respected Franklin, but didn't like him much. He was a great president, but Eleanor is the one who gave him most of his social policy ideas. An interesting partnership that accomplished much. This gave me a great appreciation for that time in history and I highly recommend it, especially if you didn't live during that time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Unfortunately educational textbooks only give a surface version about the lives and interaction between Franklin and Eleanor. This book peels layer by layer about their relationship (negative and postive) and the reality of what the United States went through pre-war, during and post-war.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin delivers again! This is an insightful book into the Roosevelt Presidency up to and during World War II. This is a great history lesson and it helps you understand why some of the decisions were made.
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