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The American Home Front: 1941-1942

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  368 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In nearly three thousand BBC broadcasts over fifty-eight years, Alistair Cooke reported on America, illuminating our country for a global audience. He was one of the most widely read and widely heard chroniclers of America—the Twentieth Century’s de Tocqueville. Cooke died in 2004, but shortly before he passed away a long-forgotten manuscript resurfaced in a closet in his ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 9th 2007 by Grove Press (first published June 29th 2006)
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Elisabeth
Reading this book is a remarkable experience. It's a literal road-trip through America of the early 1940s. English journalist Alistair Cooke, curious about the effects of World War II across America, but wise enough not to rely on newspaper pronouncements about the war effort or the public's patriotism, set off to explore the entire country and see for himself how the war was affecting people's lives, and if possible, how they felt about it.

The answer, of course, was neither simple nor small. Th
...more
HBalikov
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Alistair Cooke, is the Brit who traded for American early in his career. From that point he became a keen observer of his adopted country. This is a "diary" of journeys taken as the USA enters into World War Two. As with all journeys, it is as much about time as it is about place.

It didn't take more than 20-30 pages into the book for me to realize how well Cooke had nailed down this fleeting period of Americana. He is mostly careful to avoid generalizations but he is concious of two fateful thi
...more
Christine
I have loved Alistair Cooke ever since he introduced me to George Elliot. It was wonderful when my local NPR channel started playing the BBC World Service, and I could hear his letters from America.
So I had to read this.
Cooke’s travelogue was written during the start of America’s entry into the Second World War. It starts with Pearl Harbor and while the actually journey is roughly a year; the afterword extends it to the death of Roosevelt.
Loosely divided into regional sections, the book captu
...more
Judy
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alistair Cooke was in the United States as a correspondent for the Guardian when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He wanted to examine the effects of the war on ordinary Americans trying to live their lives in a very stressful time so he received permission and set out traveling around the country. This book is the result of that investigation. An interesting look at American society in the opening years of American involvement in World War II.
Susan
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Alistair Cooke, really who doesn't? This, not nearly as much as I had hoped. I will admit this is quite possibly due to that bane of my literary existence: expectations. And possibly the fact that I was listening to this in the car on a road trip ... I have a tendency to let my mind wander when listening to books on CD that coupled with a tendency to nod off in the car makes for a less than perfect "reading" environment. However, my shortcomings aside, I expected this to be something mor ...more
Jeslyn
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not what I expected - rather than highlighting American patriotism during WWII, Cooke takes an around-the-U.S. car/train trip and describes extensively the impact of America's entry into the war on domestic manufacturing, labor, housing, landscape, politics, etc., and very little on how the Americans felt about their sons/brothers/fathers fighting overseas. It is a fascinating read, particularly the foreshadowing of the U.S. military-industrial complex, our dependence on processed ...more
Debra Daniels-zeller
Although I was intrigued by the title and author of this book, I was initially disappointed when he spent the first half of the book east of the Mississippi. I'd wanted to know about the state of the roads at that time but Cooke spent time telling stories about what people were doing to gear up for the second world war. It wasn't a book I looked forward to reading. He spent little time on topics I wanted to read about. As books that I had previously ordered to read became available, I got distra ...more
Hal
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 15-reads, ww-1-2, history
I found this book to be very unfulfilling. I guess, since it was written by Alistair Cooke, I was expecting more. Instead of getting a real feel of what the U.S. home front was experiencing during the war, it came across more as a travelogue of his trip reaching most states of the union in the early days of the war.
Heather
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I haven't finished it yet but not really getting into in a big way yet!
William O. Robertson
An observational view by famed BBC contributor and commentator, Alistair Cook of a moment in time as the United States gears up for World War II. Cook's observations are documented in travelogue style as he writes about his views on how America is rapidly adapting to a war footing in manufacturing, agriculture, and a sea change in American society in its resolve to win a war. Reading this book I couldn't help but reflect on the supposedly quote (although never proven) by Japanese Admiral Isoroku ...more
Marty Greenwell
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am embarassed to say I never heard of Alistair Cooke, a Brit who had a series of programs on America for the BBC. Even though this was written by Cooke in the form of notes in 41-42, it was not made into a book until after he died. Really good descriptive prose and colorful narrative for parts of our country and how each area responded to the war effort. You forget that money is behind a lot of things and industries and products were chosed by the US Govt. (and other products were not). There ...more
Linda
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I know who Alistair Cooke is (unfortunately my biggest memory is watching Cookie Monster impersonate him as I watched Sesame Street with my daughters!) but I was not all that familiar with his work. Nevertheless I had heard of this book so I bought it when it came up in a history book email not really knowing that he actually wrote this during WWII but that it was not published until 2007. It is dated in some ways and also incredibly up to date perhaps because we Americans are still discussing/ ...more
Audiobook Accomplice (Gillian)
Is it shameful that I really wish someone other than Alistair’s son narrated this?
My Full Review
...more
Lucia
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This sheds interesting light on things happening in the US during pre/post WWII. I want to listen to it again.
Kenneth Flusche
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellant Travel Log Mostly 1942. Learned a few things about that time in American History
Dave
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
If you've heard or watched Alistair Cooke on radio or television, you will know what style and quality of writing to expect from this book. This is a very interesting, timely, and well written book. Cooke (1908 to 2004) had a long and distinguished career in radio and television as a reporter and commentator. A native of Great Britain, he did graduate studies in America, and moved here permanently in 1937, becoming a U.S. citizen. He was a commentator for NBC and the BBC. His most famous assignm ...more
Richard Palmer
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, since I have always liked Cooke's 'Letter from America'.

I did like the very descriptive language; it is very rich and poetic. The phrasing to me feels like small currents and eddies in a river. One sentence flows into the next, which flows into yet another; the strands of narrative are woven together in an endless tapestry, streaming past in a continuous story. This style is vary familiar from his radio programs. Unfortunately, this did not seem to work for me
...more
Dena
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pierre Lauzon
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it
The manuscript of this book was almost lost to history, found in a closet by his secretary long after it was written as Alistair Cooke neared death. I am glad it was found and published.

The book is primarily a narrative of a road trip taken by Cooke across the United States as the United States was gearing up its industrial and agricultural might early in World War II. This was a United States before Interstate Highways and very large farms. Railroads were the primary mode of freight and persona
...more
Harvey Smith
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book Alistair Cooke was not only a great broadcaster, he could also observe and write in a charming fashion.

I was born in 1945, and had the impression that the American Home Front was united solidly behind the war (World War II). Not so. Cooke took several trips around the U.S., south, west, north, and east and observed the society in each area, and interacted with the people in each area. Curiously, when he would ask people what they thought about the war, he got the "party
...more
Nicole Marble
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We are loising people who were in WWII to time. And so loosing what it was like then for the soldiers, for the ordinary people and for the country. But wait! Here is one of the 20th centuries finest writers and reporters traveling across the country to report on what was happening in 1942. This is priceless! As it happens, my parents drove from Chicago to California in 1944 and I was along, but I probably slept most of the way as I was quite little. But this book reveals a bit about what it was ...more
MargaretDH
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
An interesting exploration of the US during the opening days of the war, and a fascinating discussion of the differences between seeing the forest vs. the trees when you're an on the ground reporter in an enormous country.

I stretched my reading out over almost two weeks, and I'm glad I did. There's not really an overarching argument here, more of a close up examination of a time and different places. Since there's no argument to carry the book, I found I enjoyed it more when reading small pieces
...more
Denise
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I always loved Alistair Cook and his way of talking and it ends up his writing style is very similar. Long, long sentences with many complex thoughts that demand close concentration as you read. Not easy but worth the effort.

This recently published book is the result of unpublished notes from two different extended trips, one at the start and the second at the near-end of the WWII. Mr. Cook traveled across the country to sample the impact of the war and the sentiments of the people.

Interesting a
...more
Warren Lamb
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I had enjoyed Alistair Cooke's public television programs and for this reason wanted to read The American Home Front (1941-1942) -- having been born during this era. My expectation was a close look at the daily life of people during WW II, in small towns and large cities across the land. While I learned many things about the war and how it affected people, I found that a lot of the book seemed to be a travelogue. There were pages filled with long, even poetic descriptions, of his travels by car ...more
John Monaghan
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was looking for some backgroud on what Amerifa was like at the start of WWII. Many of the historical books present a vew of America that talks of the politics of the era. Alistair's book provided a time capsule view of the state of the American people in those first days. I found it fascinating as my parents never spoke about the era.

I learned a lot about how our parents reacted to the war. I'm now looking for a similar book on the beginning of the Viet Nam era, a book that would give me a bet
...more
Rick
May 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting perspective on what Americans really were thinking in the early years of the war. We have been led to believe the comforting fiction that everyone pulled together and willingly shared sacrifice, but there was a lot of resentment. An example; the granite manufacturers in Vermont were greatly upset that their product was not singled out as essential to the war effort. They showed enthusiasm, though, when chicken farmers reported shortages of grit for their feed, and rashly concluded th ...more
Judy
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the months just before Alistair Cooke died in 2004, a forgotten manuscript was discovered in a closet in his New York apartment. It was an account of Cooke's cross-country trip that he took in 1941-1942 talking to Americans about their lives, their views on World War II, and how the war was affecting them. Cooke talked to Americans in large cities, small towns, and in rural areas as he traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast and then back again. An interesting look at the lives of ordi ...more
Maggie
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Part of me agrees with the publishers who rejected this book and part of me is glad it was eventually published. It needed much tighter construction and editing than it got, but much of the information was interesting, though most of it was material I already knew or, frankly, didn't care about. it would have been much more interesting if it had been a series of interviews of how the war was individually affecting the people or companies. We got bits and pieces of that story, but never enough to ...more
Brian
Jul 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is certainly not the best book ever written on the American Home Front during WWII, but it may be one of the most unusual. It is basically a travelogue by Alistair Cooke who, at this time, was a recently naturalized American citizen reporting back to Great Britain for the BBC. I found his experiences and descriptions of people and places all over the U.S. and how he was able to travel around in the midst of gas rationing and shortages of rubber tires to be very informative.
Mof
Feb 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Alistair Cooke drove across America in the opening year of the Second World War. He, although an American citizen, sees the country from the aspect of an outsider. Every meeting provides a glimpse into the American or the regional character.

This is not an idealistic view. He describes the underbelly of race relations. The prejudice against black workers and the oppression of the Japanese minority on the West coast.
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Alistair Cooke, KBE (1908-2004), was a legendary British American journalist, television host, and radio broadcaster. He was born in Lancashire, England, and after graduating from the University of Cambridge, was hired as a journalist for the BBC. He rose to prominence for his London Letter reports, broadcast on NBC Radio in America during the 1930s. Cooke immigrated to the United States in 1937. ...more

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