The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

by Jonathan Alter
3.3 43

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Defining Moment 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
KyBorn More than 1 year ago
Despite the Subtitle, this book does not primarily focus on the first 100 days. Over half the book covers FDR's political life before his first inauguration. Since my primary reason for buying this book was to educate myself on the parallels between then and now as well as the policy action.

That being said, this is a good book for anyone wanting to learn about FDR's early political career and the events that shaped his character and methods.
tenspeed More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice, once rather rapidly for "enjoyment" and a second time several months after to get the "substance." I can say without equivocation that Parts 1, 2 and 3 fit nicely into Francis Tiffany's idea that, "...all is but prelude...." The meat, if it can be called such, is Part 4 when the 100 days is actually discussed. While the first 3 parts don't really cover the 100 days, they do give a rather deep, and at times slogging, review of FDR's life before the election of 1932 and the start of his presidency. But, was it really worth it? I've wondered that for a while now. However, without an idea of what made the man, can you truly understand what the man made?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is enlightening! It presents the first hundred days of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency in a very readable format. The people involved in Roosevelt's personal and political lives come to life in an exciting yet historically accurate rendering of the events of the first hundred days. You feel like you really get to know the people. They are fleshed out, real people--not just the Roosevelt family, but other people involved in the politics of the times. Jonathan Alter is an excellent writer.
JL_Garner More than 1 year ago
In a story recounted in "Newsweek" senior editor Jonathan Alter's "The Defining Moment," President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called on former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes during his first hundred days in office. Afterwards, Holmes mentioned FDR's cousin Theodore, and made the remark "A second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament." (Holmes never clarified which Roosevelt he was talking about, though most historians have assumed he meant Franklin.)

Alter's book is just that: first-class writing, but as far as a deep and probing analysis of the legendary 100-day emergency session of Congress that marked the beginning of the Roosevelt Administration, this book only rates second-class (and that's being incredibly generous). The book spends too much time setting up the players -- FDR, Eleanor, Sara, Louis Howe, Herbert Hoover -- and how they got there, and not enough time on what they actually DID. It rehashes FDR's early career, but brings little that's new or groundbreaking to the table. The coverage of the actual 'Hundred Days' is rather perfunctory and almost seems like an afterthought.

"The Defining Moment" also suffers from feeling too much like a collection of "Newsweek" pieces rather than a cohesive long-form historical narrative. Most chapters are short enough they could probably have been run in Alter's magazine as a series of 4-5 page articles. Alter's writing reads like a "Newsweek" article, too -- well-polished, but with the intellectual depth of a child's wading pool. Those used to lengthy, well-researched tomes by the likes of David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin will be vastly disappointed.

Alter's book has resurfaced again because of comparisons between the crisis FDR faced in March 1933 and the crisis facing president-elect Barack Obama in 2009. (Keith Olbermann flogging it every time Alter appears on MSNBC's "Countdown" doesn't hurt either.) While there may be some interesting parallels between Roosevelt's crisis and Obama's, this is far from the best book out there if you want to read up on the historical side of this story.
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MerlinDB More than 1 year ago
Interesting and informative, but could use some editing. Prone to wander off the subject.
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This is an excellent account of FDR's life and presidency. This is well researched and objective. A must for anyone who enjoys American history.
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