Pulitzer Prize Winner, History, 1995
No Ordinary Time describes how the isolationist and divided United States of 1940 was unified under the extraordinary leadership of Franklin Roosevelt to become 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 an intimate portrait of the daily conduct of the presidency during wartime and the Roosevelts' extraordinary constellation of friends, advisers, and family.
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.
©1995 Doris Kearns Goodwin, All Rights Reserved. (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
Doris Kearns Goodwin does a wonderful job of weaving numerous threads in this narrative history: the personal relationship between FDR and Eleanor; the political challenges FDR had to maneuver in, around, and over in his effort to fight fascism and lead the U.S. and then the whole alliance; the social and economic changes America went through during the course of the war; and all the personalities--from Harry Hopkins and Churchill to FDR's valet and his purple-haired catty cousin, Laura Delano. Roosevelt still takes plenty of criticism and was certainly no paragon of perfection, but there are times, as Goodwin clearly conveys, when, even 70 years later, you have to thank our lucky stars that FDR was President when he was--and Churchill PM when he was. And to get all this well-recounted history told with Nelson Runger's calm, wise and companionable voice makes it an all-around 5-star pleasure.
I liked the voice alright. However, I think 10 hours of the 40 hour book were the narrator's pauses between sentences. I listened at 1 and a half speed and loved it then.
Kearns-Goodwin knows how to tell a story and this doesn't disappoint in narrative. Highly recommended for the detailed insights it provides into the unusual lives of the main characters AND for the picture it paints of a time in the not too distant past that in many ways was so very different from our own. Even as it confirms ongoing themes of our social debate, it's just incredible to see how much the collective view of what's right and what's wrong has changed. Also the reader grows to understand how the complementary personalities of Eleanor and Franklin made the whole so much stronger than the parts.My main criticism of the audiobook is that it goes into so much depth in so many particulars as to leave the listener's mind to wander from time to time. Taken a couple of hours at a time, it took most of a month to get through. If I'd read it I would probably have skimmed several parts.
Doris Kearns Goodwin gave the nation an invaluable gift by weaving together so many primary documents to write this book. She brings both Eleanor and FDR to life and in doing so gives voice to the sub-themes of the 1940s such as race, gender issues, xenophobia, etc. It's a US History teacher's dream. Unfortunately the narration left something to be desired; aside from some non-standard pronunciations I was baffled as to why he chose to read Eleanor's lines in the most silly, sing-songy voice that made her sound like an out-of-touch dimwit. Fortunately the history speaks so loudly that despite that distraction, listeners come away with the true picture of who she was.
Great story which more than stands on its own. No need for the annoyingly exaggerated rendition of the character's voices.
Admire Doris Kearns Goodwin but the book became too tedious with detail. I might try an abridged version in the future.
The combination of biography and history. I learned a lot. It is very well written. Least was the narration and the 20 second pauses between sections of chapters. There was less pausing b/w chapters.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are among the most remarkable people in the 20th century world, and the roles they played out during his 12 years in the White House is an incredible story.
This book focuses on the period from May 1940 to FDR's death, and details (and I do mean DETAILS) the day to day activities of the President and First Lady over that period... not every day by any means, but Goodwin has thoroughly presented both the public and private lives and what everyone said about most everything it seems. My only quibble is that, at times, I felt like there was just too much information about who said what to whom and about whom. Now it can be argued that the Roosevelts had so many important relationships that it was necessary to present all of these for context, and I get that. After all, the White House was like a rooming house during their presidency, with many people from outside of the family living there, and so there were lots of relationships. All of this makes for a very long book.
That quibble aside, the story is what it is, a story of two very exceptional people who had a flawed relationship (at least in terms of what we traditionally expect marriage to be). Goodwin shows us both the good and the bad, and at times I found myself admring FDR and Eleanor, at times I found myself pitying them, and at time I found myself irritated at them for their obvious foibles.
But the real value of this book seems to be in the documentation of the times, and the amazing story of America's movement from isolation to combatant in World War II, and the incredible transformation this movement caused in American society. As I read this book and its story of opportunities for women and for blacks, I found myself eager to talk to my dad about his work as a WAC recruiter early in the war, and in so doing, heard personal stories from he and my mom about their life during the war (they were married in October 1942). I probably would never have heard those stories if not for this book, so I am so grateful.
I recently read Churchill's World War II memoirs, so this was a fitting follow-up to that story, and as a result of this combination, I believe I now understand much more both about the War, and about the various political influences at work during that era, and the realization that if Roosevelt and Churchill had not been in the places they were during that war, I wonder how different the world would be today. (Different bad, not different good.)
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have been trying to clear my wish list of some books that have been there since the beginning of the year. A number on the list including this one I have kept postponing reading because they are so long. This book is about 40 hours.
Goodwin sets out to tell the history of 1940 to 1945 through the lives of the Roosevelt’s and those who occupied the White House with them at a time when that building functioned more as a dormitory for famous personages than the President’s official residence. Guest included of course the Roosevelt’s daughter Ann and 4 sons, but Winston Churchill came and stayed for months at a time. Goodwin introduces us to a guest that has had less attention paid to her by historians the exiled Princess Martha of Norway. Princess Martha was born in Stockholm the daughter of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. She married her cousin Crown Prince Olav of Norway in Oslo Cathedral on 21 March 1929; it was the first Royal Wedding in Norway in 340 years. When the Nazi overran Norway the Royal family first fled to Sweden then to England. Princess Martha and her three children were invited to come to the United States by Franklin and Eleanor for safety for the duration of the War. The Norwegian Americans helped host her. Prince Olav stayed most often in London helping with the War effort. Prince Olav’s mother was Princess Maud of Wales and father was King Haakon VII of Norway.
The author did a prodigious amount of research to write this book and then she had the ability to convert all that abundance of information into a very readable story. No previous biography of the Roosevelt’s has given so complete a picture of how the private lives and political lives intersect uniquely for the Roosevelt’s. Goodwin portrays the history of WWII and so fully documents the domestic life of the nation during the international crisis. Narrating the events of the war from the vantage point of the White House, Goodwin makes it richly evident; Eleanor was a home front counterpart to Winston Churchill, a partner and provocateur whose relationship with FDR was rarely smooth and often frankly confrontational. Eleanor was her husband’s political and social conscience. Goodwin shows in stunning detail that Eleanor was even more; she was his astute political partner, lobbyist and goad. Goodwin depicts how a savvy, relentlessly involved First Lady incalculably enriched and shaped the political and social agenda of the Nation.
The way Goodwin has pulled her myriad facts together serves to reinforce one’s sense of a monumental Presidency. It had its flaws, among which Goodwin numbers chiefly its failure to do more for the European Jews and its inability to stem the tide of hostility toward Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. This is a superb dual portrait of the 32nd President and his first lady. Nelson Runger did a great job narrating the book.
What didn't? Seriously, an impeccably researched and written story from a unique period of time. It's long, but I couldn't put it down. I thought I might be tempted to intersperse it with another listen, but not necessary. Wouldn't be a problem if you did.
The storyteller. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a wonderful storyteller who doesn't spare the interesting asides.
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