A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America's most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of Americas favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.
From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.
Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent's dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.
Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women's suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.
Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible - if long-forgotten - federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the 20s was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent's account of Joseph P. Kennedy's legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)
It's a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent's narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing sacramental wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.
Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent's rank as a major American writer.
©2010 Last Laugh, Inc (P)2010 Simon & Schuster
“Daniel Okrent's Last Call is filled with delightful details, colorful characters, and fascinating social insights. And what a great tale! Prohibition may not have been a lot of fun, but this book sure is.” (Walter Isaacson)
“Last Call is - I can't help it - a high, an upper, a delicious cocktail of a book, served with a twist or two and plenty of punch.” (Evan Thomas, Newsweek)
Good book just got slow in some parts enjoyed the history parts. This brought a better understanding on how women got their rights which was very good.
I had missed that this was the abridged version (usually don't go for those). The lead up to Prohibition was interesting and detailed - I didn't realize the factors that had come together to promote the passing of this amendment.
Some of the societal changes (like co-ed drinking) that came about because of prohibition were very interesting, but the story begins to feel a little rushed and there is not much detail. The after-effects feel even more rushed. Many topics such a the re-development of the brewing industry, lingering societal effects, changes to political powers, and others (NASCAR?) were hinted at but never really developed. Either the author doesn't finish well or this is a result of the abridging.
Overall, the author does a decent job reading and it is an interesting book that could really benefit from some added depth.
This was a fascinating and entertaining look at the history of prohibition and the remarkable circumstances that took place to cause it to happen. I didn't expect it to be so fun to listen to.
I can see history already coming around full circle. the very end of the book about the Kennedy's and Al Capone was interesting
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