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

Winner of the Pulitzer for History, No Ordinary Time is a chronicle of one of the most vibrant & revolutionary periods in US history. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin weaves together a number of story lines—the Roosevelt’s marriage & partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, & FDR’s White House & its impact on America as well as on a wo...

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Title:No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Author:Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Edition Language:English

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

  • Becky

    I'm reminded of the saying, "If you want to learn something, read non-fiction." I am learning the answers to questions I didn't know I had. "Exactly how did the internment of the Japanese get started? When were land mines invented? What was Eleanor Roosevelt really like?" It was around this time that Executive Order 8802 came about, with the wording we are all so used to: discrimination is banned on grounds of "race, color, creed, or national origin." The national origin part was added because t

    I'm reminded of the saying, "If you want to learn something, read non-fiction." I am learning the answers to questions I didn't know I had. "Exactly how did the internment of the Japanese get started? When were land mines invented? What was Eleanor Roosevelt really like?" It was around this time that Executive Order 8802 came about, with the wording we are all so used to: discrimination is banned on grounds of "race, color, creed, or national origin." The national origin part was added because the Poles were having some trouble in Buffalo. So - read this book and learn more about the country and about WWII. The book isn't a page-turner but it is readable.

  • Ed

    A truly memorable book. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a fine writer who manages to transform seemingly insignificant snippets of data into compelling reading.

    This volume covers the period from May, 1939 to April, 1945 and focuses on what was going on in the U.S. through the actions and writings of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and others close to them. It truly deserves its Pulitzer Prize and the four or more other awards and accolades it garnered.

    I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about the

    A truly memorable book. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a fine writer who manages to transform seemingly insignificant snippets of data into compelling reading.

    This volume covers the period from May, 1939 to April, 1945 and focuses on what was going on in the U.S. through the actions and writings of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and others close to them. It truly deserves its Pulitzer Prize and the four or more other awards and accolades it garnered.

    I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about the period the book covers but I discovered a ton of new information. Goodwin, also, not only relates the facts, she is not afraid to state what she sees as the implications of what has happened. A prime example is the beginning of the integration of Negroes into the work force at all skill levels. There are many others.

    Her deft handling of the complicated relationship that Eleanor and FDR had allows the reader to see its many layers without being hit over the head with "juicy" tidbits.

    Goodwin never loses focus, throughout, while still managing to keep the reader chronologically oriented to events outside the President and his wife's immediate concerns.

    I was appreciative of how well Goodwin tied up loose ends in the last chapter, "A New Country Is Being Born" and the short "Afterword". It really gives the reader a sense of closure while hinting at what will follow after FDR's death.

    This book comes as close as possible to the ideal of a factual history being as interesting to read as a novel.

  • Susan O

    No Ordinary Time is a unique blend of biography and WWII history from the US perspective. Many biographies have been written about both Eleanor and Franklin, so as in

    and

    , Goodwin chose to take a different approach. She does an excellent job and pulls it off beautifully.

    The book covers primarily the years 1941 through 1945, the time that the United States is involved in WWII. However, she gives sufficient background information on both FDR and ER as well as the l

    No Ordinary Time is a unique blend of biography and WWII history from the US perspective. Many biographies have been written about both Eleanor and Franklin, so as in

    and

    , Goodwin chose to take a different approach. She does an excellent job and pulls it off beautifully.

    The book covers primarily the years 1941 through 1945, the time that the United States is involved in WWII. However, she gives sufficient background information on both FDR and ER as well as the lead up to the war that everything is put in perspective. Both of the Roosevelts are seen as wonderfully human with strengths and weaknesses and the contrast between Eleanor's idealism and Franklin's practical politics provide a sense of tension and a wonderful feel for what FDR faced as President trying to balance domestic concerns with the war effort. I did feel that Goodwin was a little more sympathetic to one than the other, but I'll leave that for you to decide.

    The Roosevelts had a unique marriage partnership that was rooted in events of the past. The two primary events are FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer and his polio attack, one of which pushed them apart and the other drew them together. Each of them had many people who they were close to and who supported them intimately and they are all mentioned here - Missy LeHand, Daisy Stuckley, Harry Hopkins, Louis Howe, Lorena Hickok, Joseph Lash etc. There are of course many others who were involved in the government and in their lives who are mentioned in addition to their grown children. Goodwin covers them all with just enough information to put them in place and show their connection to the Roosevelts.

    In spite of the many individuals mentioned and the complex domestic and war situations, I don't think anyone will be lost. Although it might leave you wanting to know more about different people or subjects. Goodwin's writing style is nice and the book is never boring. I highly recommend it.

  • Graham Shelby

    I took a long time reading this book because it was like time travel, like seeing into the past. NO ORDINARY TIME is a marvelously researched and rendered account of perhaps the most important and influential marriage in American history. Franklin and Eleanor's relationship is fascinating, so complicated and extraordinary, and yet so human, and in its own way, familiar.

    Eleanor, to her eternal credit and the benefit of our country, was a tireless champion for women and African-Americans and the

    I took a long time reading this book because it was like time travel, like seeing into the past. NO ORDINARY TIME is a marvelously researched and rendered account of perhaps the most important and influential marriage in American history. Franklin and Eleanor's relationship is fascinating, so complicated and extraordinary, and yet so human, and in its own way, familiar.

    Eleanor, to her eternal credit and the benefit of our country, was a tireless champion for women and African-Americans and the poor. Franklin was as well, to a lesser degree, but his calculus was much more complicated than hers. The book features story after story of people experiencing one kind of social injustice or another and somehow getting word directly or indirectly to Eleanor, who would be outraged. And at that precise moment, Franklin is having cocktails with his friends (this was an important part of his process for managing the work stress caused by, you know, the Depression and World War II).

    Then Eleanor, in high dudgeon, comes in, completely focused on some poor person's plight and totally buzzkills the party. Franklin's annoyed. They argue. Often (though not always) he agrees to take some action. Ultimately, he appreciates her awareness of what's happening in the country, and her ability to go places he couldn't really go, both because he was president and because of his polio.

    Goodwin's writing isn't artful, exactly, but it doesn't need to be. It's efficient, thorough and insightful. Her eye for detail and organization is just about perfect. She admires and empathizes with Franklin, Eleanor and the people around them, but she also sees their flaws and holds them accountable for their mistakes and misjudgments, while also contextualizing them. She details, for example, Franklin's decision to listen to the voices in his cabinet and military who called for interning Japanese-Americans as perhaps the most glaring example. (That policy not only made fishwrap of the Constitution, it went against his own values.)

    I savored this book, took the last pages slowly because I didn't want it to end, didn't want Franklin to die, suddenly, while visiting his mistress. But he did. And Eleanor found that out, and had to live with that as part of her memory of him.

    There's a wonderful scene at the end of the book where Eleanor is taking Bess Truman on a tour of the White House. Eleanor doesn't seem to notice that the new first lady is quietly appalled that the place is in such disrepair. Keeping up the president's residence is apparently part of the first lady's traditional responsibilities, but between traveling, writing a daily newspaper column, and advocating for Americans who had no one else of her stature or influence on their side, Eleanor Roosevelt never quite found the time to keep house, even the White House.

  • Matt

    Doris Kearns Goodwin’s

    is an unusual World War II book. There are no descriptions of clashing armies, no in-depth armchair analyses of battlefield strategies, no biographical sketches of medal-bedecked generals moving their men like so many pawns. This is World War II as viewed from the American home front, and specifically through the eyes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

    begins in 1940, as Nazi Germany invades France, Luxembourg, and the Low Countries (endin

    Doris Kearns Goodwin’s

    is an unusual World War II book. There are no descriptions of clashing armies, no in-depth armchair analyses of battlefield strategies, no biographical sketches of medal-bedecked generals moving their men like so many pawns. This is World War II as viewed from the American home front, and specifically through the eyes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

    begins in 1940, as Nazi Germany invades France, Luxembourg, and the Low Countries (ending the so-called

    , the period of inactivity following Great Britain’s and France’s declarations of war against the Third Reich). It ends in 1945, with the death of President Roosevelt.

    The events in between – spoiler alert! – are momentous.

    Some of the ground covered is standard for most World War II histories. There is Roosevelt’s struggle with the America First isolationist faction, the initiation of a peace time draft, and the famous Lend-Lease bill that turned the United States into the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

    Other topics, though, generally don’t receive nearly enough attention. Exhibit A is Goodwin’s treatment of race and racism in 1940s America. Black contributions to World War II are typically relegated to brief mentions of the (admittedly illustrious) Tuskegee Airmen. What gets ignored is America’s still-segregated Army, its still-segregated Navy, and the deplorable domestic treatment of blacks, including black munitions workers.

    Goodwin devotes several large sections of her book to this oft-overlooked reality. The reality that America’s treatment of blacks (segregated facilities, lynching, suppressed votes, suppressed juries) bore uncomfortable similarities to Hitler’s Germany.* I’ve definitely become more sensitive to the elision of wartime black experiences (having recently read Richard Slotkin’s

    , about the World War I travails of the black community) so I appreciated Goodwin’s thorough dedication to the topic.

    *It bears mentioning that Hitler drew this analogy himself. As did Goebbels. Accordingly, I suggest this is an exception to Godwin’s Law and its corollaries: If Hitler himself says you are like Hitler, there is no violation.

    This 600-page volume covers a wide array of subjects. In many ways, it is a sweeping look at life during war, but away from war. But at its heart,

    is quite intimate. In a very real way, it is a household drama, starring Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and a rotating cast of boarders. No matter what is going on in the world, everything that Goodwin writes about comes back to the couple living in the White House.

    And that’s okay.

    Having finished

    , I’m hard-pressed to think up a more fascinating, twisted, and compellingly dysfunctional (yet functioning) administration. FDR’s White House is unbelievable. The shenanigans that took place during his four terms (12 years) make John Kennedy’s sex-filled fake-Camelot look like a Family Circus cartoon. Among the lodgers in the People’s House were Missy LeHand, the President’s personal secretary and possible mistress, and Lorena Hickok, a one-time journalist in love with Eleanor. (It is unlikely that Eleanor, who was admittedly closed-off in matters of the heart, ever consummated a relationship with Hickok).

    Goodwin meticulously documents the extracurricular drama (aided and abetted by a press corps with far more discretion than their modern-day counterparts), and makes good use of the White House logs to track the comings and goings of visitors. (She also notes, for those who were wondering – I include myself – that FDR’s polio did not cause a lack of sexual function).

    Among other things, this book is a portrait of a marriage: an oddly paired, emotionally destructive, unfathombaly complex union. Clearly, FDR needed outlets – mental, if not physical – that Eleanor could not provide. Likewise, Eleanor needed support and attention that she never received from her husband. Perhaps, both of them would have been happier had they never met. Eleanor certainly would have been. She knew of her husband’s affair with Lucy Mercer, probably suspected an affair with Missy LeHand, and had to watch him flirt with Martha, the crown princess of Norway. She also had to endure FDR’s carelessness, his tactlessness, and his occasional casual cruelty. FDR is, by any metric, one of our greatest and most transformational presidents. He was also sort of a prick.

    Yet, Goodwin persuasively argues that – emotional incompatibility aside – they made a formidable political team. FDR dedicated himself to winning the war, to the extent that he was willing to bargain away many of his New Deal accomplishments to that end. He focused on the global picture, the strategy, and the mobilization. He was single-minded in his dedication to Axis destruction. Eleanor provided the boots on the ground, both literally and figuratively. She traveled the country tirelessly, meeting with constituents, providing the personal touch. She met with interest groups and soothed ruffled feathers. She fought to protect the New Deal legacy, and also to broaden the umbrella to include the black community. If Eleanor had turned down FDR’s proposal of marriage, life might have been easier; at the same time, and to his credit, FDR allowed her to achieve greatness in her own right.

    (Goodwin’s portrait of Eleanor by itself makes

    a worthwhile read. Her views were amazingly modern and inclusive, and she had the guts to defend them at a time when many people didn't want to hear

    opinion from a woman).

    For a long time, I avoided Goodwin’s books. I only knew her from

    , where she’d sometimes appear to deliver a facile comparison between current and historical events. I figured if her books were as broad as her sound bites, I’d be better off avoiding them.

    proved I am an idiot for thinking this. Now I have begun working my way through her bibliography.

    is minutely researched, beautifully written, and tells a compelling story that combines elements of world-historical import with scenes from the weirdest soap opera ever conceived. It is part history, part biography, part

    , and always engaging.

  • Nancy

    This is one of those books you mourn the ending of. What a phenomenal read. This book is both a biographical look at Franklin and Eleanor's relationship and history framed by the unique marriage that was the Roosevelts.

    It was fascinating to delve a bit deeper in Franklin's handling of WWII, his manipulating of politics by waiting for the right timing in public opinion, his relationship with Churchill, building the United Nations, and the far reaching effects of the Yalta Conference. People will

    This is one of those books you mourn the ending of. What a phenomenal read. This book is both a biographical look at Franklin and Eleanor's relationship and history framed by the unique marriage that was the Roosevelts.

    It was fascinating to delve a bit deeper in Franklin's handling of WWII, his manipulating of politics by waiting for the right timing in public opinion, his relationship with Churchill, building the United Nations, and the far reaching effects of the Yalta Conference. People will long debate the merits and pitfalls of that meeting. What a tragedy he didn't live to see the conclusions of his efforts.

    More at the core of the book was Franklin and Eleanor's marriage. It's common knowledge that Franklin had an affair with Lucy Mercer early in their life. The relationship never disappeared even after Lucy married Rutherford and was widowed. She was with him the day he died. There is also speculation about the level of involvement with his secretary Missy Lehand and Princess Martha of Norway among others. I tend to think these were more on an intellectual/spiritual/emotional level than a physical one. The things missing to a degree in his relationship with Eleanor. Franklin obviously adored and appreciated the women in his life. But it is also abundantly clear that it didn't lessen his love, affection, respect and admiration for Eleanor. There is no way to put adequate words to what a remarkable woman she was. Certainly there was some distance between them. They were two very different people. Eleanor was a driven woman, especially when it came to issues of social justice. Could it be there was a level of insecurity that was behind her behavior? Franklin's mother's strong personality undoubtedly cast a shadow over her. That drive however was behind her many contributions to this country and her husband's presidency. Neither would be who they were, nor have accomplished the myriad of change without the influences of the other. They were far more dependent upon each other than either seemed to realize. I continue to be impressed by the magnitude of contributions she made in the beginnings of women's rights, racial equality and the labor movement among other things.

    Hands down - a great book. No wonder this is a Pulitzer prize winner.

  • Amy

    Through No Ordinary Time, I loved learning more about the U.S. home front during WWII and the impact FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt made on the nation as President and First Lady. WWII was such a catalytic time in our nation's history. When Hitler was invading much of Europe prior to U.S. engagement in the war, our military ranked 17th or 18th in the world as a result of an isolationist policy felt in Congress and throughout the nation. (Many Americans thought that the oceans dividing us from Europe

    Through No Ordinary Time, I loved learning more about the U.S. home front during WWII and the impact FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt made on the nation as President and First Lady. WWII was such a catalytic time in our nation's history. When Hitler was invading much of Europe prior to U.S. engagement in the war, our military ranked 17th or 18th in the world as a result of an isolationist policy felt in Congress and throughout the nation. (Many Americans thought that the oceans dividing us from Europe and Asia protected us from engagement in the war.) However, when engagement in WWII proved necessary, the American people rallied to become the greatest industrial nation in the world. They created phenomenal numbers of airplanes, naval and cargo ships, weapons, and gear for soldiers in a war that would be won with machines. Because of our need of laborers in factories throughout the country, the war also became a time when the rights of African Americans and women were addressed as they were recruited at unprecedented levels to join the labor and war efforts. I loved learning about the lives of women who began working outside the home for the first time because they were so needed during the war. However, it was sad to learn that they were routinely laid off when the men returned simply because they were female.

    Doris Kearns Goodwin does a phenomenal job of writing this story, weaving in direct quotes from correspondence and people closely tied to the President and First Lady. I loved her analysis at the end of the book outlining FDR's much needed and insightful leadership and Eleanor's work promoting real democracy throughout America. However, despite all the good they accomplished, I had a hard time falling in love with FDR and Eleanor like I have with other biographical subjects (but it would take a longer review to go into why). Still, it's an excellent, well-written book about a critical time in our nation's history - very worthwhile reading.

  • Steve

    Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II" was published in 1994 and won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995. Goodwin is an author and presidential historian who has written about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, LBJ, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

    This 636 page book is meticulously researched, fact-filled and essentially a hybrid literary construct: it is part history text an

    Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II" was published in 1994 and won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995. Goodwin is an author and presidential historian who has written about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, LBJ, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

    This 636 page book is meticulously researched, fact-filled and essentially a hybrid literary construct: it is part history text and part dual-biography (of FDR and his wife Eleanor). Goodwin’s narrative is sometimes gossipy but more often is sober and serious. However, this book is not comprehensive in scope - it is focused on the last five years of the Roosevelt presidency (1940 through 1945).

    With few exceptions “No Ordinary Time” proceeds chronologically. But Goodwin occasionally breaks the timeline to inject historical context which would otherwise fall outside the book’s scope (such as the Roosevelts' early upbringings, FDR's battle with polio and the marital rift created by Franklin's affair with Lucy Mercer).

    As its title suggests, Goodwin’s book is far more focused on the "home front" than with global affairs. Readers seeking a deep appreciation for the ebb and flow of World War II will be disappointed. Instead, Goodwin conveys history almost exclusively from the perspective of the First Couple and their family, friends and colleagues who lived in the White House during these weighty years.

    On balance, Eleanor and Franklin would probably appreciate Goodwin’s portrayals of their respective characters and legacies. FDR is depicted as an extraordinarily intuitive and consequential politician…but a flawed husband and friend. Eleanor often lacks self-confidence and a sense of self-worth but possesses remarkable devotion to a wide range of important progressive causes. As its highest calling, Goodwin’s book seems designed to demonstrate both the complexity and the value inherent in their unique partnership.

    But Goodwin’s perspective - viewed through the lens of this compelling couple - comes at the expense of a deeper examination of Franklin’s political philosophies and legislative priorities, a broader understanding of the war itself and a more vibrant description of the president’s most important political relationships (such as his fascinating relationship with Winston Churchill).

    By virtue of the book’s relatively narrow chronological focus the reader misses some of the fundamentals – and many of the nuances – of FDR’s early life up through his New Deal agenda. In addition, the book’s structure and style and flow creates the frequent impression of the reader being rigidly walked through the First Couple’s daily schedules without concern for the relative importance of individual moments.

    Overall, though, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “No Ordinary Time” is a compelling review of one of the most compelling and important First Couples in our nation’s history. It is not a consistently easy, colorful or comprehensive treatment of FDR's life. But most fans of Franklin or Eleanor Roosevelt will find this book little short of outstanding.

    Overall rating: 4¼ stars

  • Markus Molina

    Remind me to never read a book this big in the middle of a busy school semester!

    Throughout the book, I found myself slightly disappointed by FDR. He isn't lovable or heroic and there are times that I really question his integrity, especially in his relationships and his resistance to stepping down after his first two terms. So although the book is thorough and full of information and anecdotes, and although there are lots of things to point to that he did well, I find I cannot give it a higher r

    Remind me to never read a book this big in the middle of a busy school semester!

    Throughout the book, I found myself slightly disappointed by FDR. He isn't lovable or heroic and there are times that I really question his integrity, especially in his relationships and his resistance to stepping down after his first two terms. So although the book is thorough and full of information and anecdotes, and although there are lots of things to point to that he did well, I find I cannot give it a higher rating, because I could never really get behind FDR like I could when I read about Teddy Roosevelt, John Adams, or Lincoln.

    On the other hand, I was very surprised at how important and interesting Eleanor Roosevelt was. What a lady! Ahead of her time for sure! With what she did to progress civil rights for black people and woman and workers, wow woo wee wuh! She was a tremendous person and I think without her, FDR would've just been some dude. I can't believe that she isn't taught about more in schools all over. She's just as important to history as FDR is, but I didn't hear about her until college. STEP IT UP, AMERICA.

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