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The American Home Front: 1941-1942

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  65 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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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
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The American home front during WWII, miracles and warts

Long after Alexis De Toqueville, and well before Andrei Codrescu, the one European who seemed to best understand America was Alistair Cooke. He first came to America on a student fellowship and in 1935 returned as a journalist for the BBC.

The letters and commentary represented in this book cover a sponsored tour and later travels of the US during World War II. It should be understood that at least one purpose for every piece in this collect
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
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
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.
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
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
Bob Grove
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I was disappointed in the book. I choose it as it was listed as a source by an author I respect and they thought highly of the work. I am a fan of Allister Cooke's radio work. I know the book was written in 1941-42 then rediscovered in 2006 in the weeks leading up to Cooke's passing. I suspect that this might not be the work that Cooke would have published if he had the time left for a final edit. His radio scripts have a much more finished feel to them. ...more
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww-1-2, history, 15-reads
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.
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! ...more
Rev. M. M. Walters
When we think about the study of war, we generally confine our study to the battles that were fought. Sometimes we look into the biographies of the generals or the development of the weapons. Television has increased our capabilities by rendering in video reality what was once confined to dusty pages or rambling reminiscences by grizzled veterans. The video histories of Ken Burns and the movies like Saving Private Ryan, as well as the TV series like Band of Brothers and Combat, have shown what w ...more
Dave Capers
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Dec 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A vague and amorphous book, not at all satisfying. Mostly babbling on philosophically at length. Interestingly I'd just read another writers trip around the USA. By Road across the U.S.A. by Robert Bell (1963). Much more interesting, more details and more real contact with people. Bell puts Cooke to shame, it's no wonder this book was consigned to the attic and left unpublished until Cooke became famous and almost on his deathbed. ...more
Audiobook Accomplice (Gillian)
Is it shameful that I really wish someone other than Alistair’s son narrated this?
My Full Review
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
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
I did not finish this book or get very far. I think it would have been an interesting story but I’d get
bored reading to find the good parts.
Evan l. Bench
Jul 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Need five more stars

One of the best books I’ve read regarding American life during wwii. Being of that generation I lived a part of this story - it’s true!
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, war, history
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
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
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
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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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