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

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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 world at war. Goodwin melds these into an intimate portrait of Eleanor & Franklin Roosevelt & of the time during which a new, modern America was born.

633 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1994

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About the author

Doris Kearns Goodwin

43 books4,047 followers
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for LBJ in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream." She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning "No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II." She earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller "Team of Rivals," the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film "Lincoln," and the Carnegie Medal for "The Bully Pulpit," the "New York Times" bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. .

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Profile Image for Matt.
917 reviews28.2k followers
March 27, 2021
“The first thing Eleanor [Roosevelt] noticed when she went into her husband’s study was his ‘deadly calm’ composure. While his aides and Cabinet members were running in and out in a state of excitement, panic, and irritation, [Franklin D. Roosevelt] was sitting quietly at his desk, absorbing the news from Hawaii as it continued to flow in – ‘each report more terrible than the last.’ Though he looked strained and tired, Eleanor observed, ‘he was completely calm. His reaction to any event was always to be calm. If it was something that was bad, he just became almost like an iceberg, and there was never the slightest emotion that was allowed to show.’ Sumner Welles agreed with Eleanor’s assessment. In all the situations over the years in which he had seen the president, he ‘had never had such reason to admire him…’”
- Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time 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. It is a marvelous hybrid historical narrative and biographical portraiture.

No Ordinary Time begins in 1940, as Nazi Germany invades France, Luxembourg, and the Low Countries (ending the so-called Sitzkrieg, 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.

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. 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.” While this ground has been well-covered, it is worth going over again, as FDR's preparations assured that when war did arrive on America's doorstep, she was far more prepared than in 1917 (when U.S. troops had been shipped overseas without equipment, to be armed and fed by Great Britain and France).

To her credit, Goodwin also devotes a good bit of time to other topics that generally don’t receive nearly enough attention. For instance, she highlights the lowlights 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. Goodwin shifts the focus to America’s still-segregated Army, its still-segregated Navy, and the deplorable domestic treatment of blacks, including black munitions workers, which virtually assured that the newly-revitalized economy would only benefit certain segments of the population.

[D]iscrimination in the mushrooming defense industry continued unabated. All over the country, new war plants were refusing to hire blacks. “Negroes will be considered only as janitors,” the general manager of North American Aviation publicly asserted. “It is the company policy not to employ them as mechanics and aircraft workers.” In Kansas City, Standard Steel told the Urban League: “We have not had a Negro working in 25 years and do not plan to start now.” And from Vultee Air in California a blanket statement was issued: “It is not the policy of this company to employ other than the Caucasian race.”

No Ordinary Time includes several large sections covering this oft-overlooked reality. While the American contribution to World War II is ultimately a grand triumph, there is no escaping the fact that America’s treatment of black citizens (segregated facilities, lynching, suppressed votes, suppressed juries) is a blemish upon that achievement. Indeed, many facets bear uncomfortable similarities to Hitler’s Germany.

(Hitler and Goebbels – two smirking mass murderers – liked to draw the analogy themselves, so it’s also important to note there were massive dissimilarities as well, which are obvious enough they do not require mention).

Despite its scope, No Ordinary Time is also quite intimate. In a very real way, it is a household drama, starring Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and a rotating cast of White House-crashers. No matter what is going on in the world, everything that Goodwin writes about comes back to the couple living in the Executive Mansion.

And that’s okay.

When you finish No Ordinary Time, you’ll be 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. Well, that's overstating it. But still, it was wild. 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, though this is speculation).

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 holds nothing back, and is ready to answer all your questions, even the ones you didn’t ask (such as her assertion that FDR’s polio did not cause a lack of sexual function).

Among many other things, No Ordinary Time is a portrait of a marriage: an oddly paired, emotionally destructive, unfathomably 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 jerk.

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 No Ordinary Time 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 any opinion from a woman. In many ways, she was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s conscience. Had she been born a bit later, she might have risen to high office herself.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is not just a historian, but a national treasure. When she takes on a topic, you can rest assured you are in good hands. She is a master at readable popular history that is nevertheless provocative, learned, and thoughtful.

No Ordinary Time is no exception. It 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 TMZ, and always engaging.
Profile Image for CoachJim.
162 reviews87 followers
August 1, 2022
In a review of Goodwin’s Team of Rivals I said she takes an historical event and deals with it in a unique perspective. That is again the case here. This is not a deep history of the period. It is not a history of the politics of the government or the strategy of the war, but a history of a president that gradually coaxed and convinced his country to unleash its productivity to become the “Arsenal of Democracy”.

It is a personal history of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It follows their lives, their relationship with each other and their relationships with many of their acquaintances. For example, there is some mention of the internment of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but you will read far more about Missy LeHand, FDR’s personal secretary. You will find out about her close relationship with FDR, her stroke and her recovery. Many of the events of the period seem to be mentioned only to examine the views and response of FDR and his wife.

The period covered here begins in the spring of 1940 as Nazi Germany has conquered Western Europe. It ends with FDR’s death in April of 1945.

This is the third time I have read this book. It did not have the impact of the previous reads. That is until I reached the final chapter titled “A New Country Is Being Born.” Here the attraction of this period is outlined. It represents the dawn of our current political and social environment. “The Roosevelt years had witnessed the most profound social revolution in the country since the Civil War—nothing less than the creation of modern America.” (Page 624)

Parts of this book could be read as a homage to Eleanor Roosevelt. She is one of the, if the not the most, important female figures in American History. The fact she was the wife of the president gave her influence over policy that others might not have had, but she made the most of it. Her presence in the White House gave a sympathetic ear to many causes including women’s rights, civil rights and labor.

During the war women enjoyed an increased opportunity for employment. Without Eleanor Roosevelt women would have still gone to work, but her push for child care centers and others amenities made their work more productive and helped these women maintain their families. Women who had joined the workforce had new experiences that would change the lives of women forever. Like the men who had returned from the war with their stories, women also had their stories of people they had met and different ideas they had heard. These stories exposed their daughters to the opportunities available.

Her continued intervention with her husband and various departments broadened opportunities for Black Americans in the military and in manufacturing. She insisted that “America could not fight racism abroad while tolerating at home.” Although civil rights remains an unfinished business many of the seeds of progress were planted during this period.

We discover the birth of the modern Military-Industrial complex that plagues the country to this day. As FDR tried to guide the country into becoming the “Arsenal of Democracy” he encountered resistance from businesses. The Allies—England, Russia, and the United States—were in dire and urgent need of military equipment. In order to speed up production, tax breaks were offered to corporations to encourage their switch to the production of military material. These tax breaks would give businesses the ability to expand production during the postwar years to meet the pent-up demand and help create the greatest economic boom in history.

Many people have argued that it was the war that brought the economy back rather than the New Deal. I have argued before that this misses the many achievements of the New Deal, but this period also brought the GI Bill and the Veterans Administration, again due in part to Eleanor. But the wartime economy did allow many people to get off relief. Many sectors of the economy experienced full, steady employment for the first time in many years. This led to a transformation of the distribution of income.

“In the early days before Pearl Harbor,” [Eleanor] said, “Franklin was healthy and strong and committed to the Allied cause while the country was sick and weak and isolationist. But gradually, as the president animated his countrymen to the dangers abroad, the country grew stronger and stronger while he grew weaker and weaker, until in the end he was dead and the country had emerged more powerful and more productive than ever before.” (Page 630)

Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books354 followers
March 18, 2023
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."


This came back to me as I finished this book. If we have lived honorable lives, and helped others, we have nothing to regret.

I am four years older than FDR was when he died at 63. I have my share of health problems. I never know how much doctors can help or not. But there is no point in being afraid.


wow, what a different time. Empathy was the key. FDR's paralysis profoundly changed him. Eleanor had been rather sheltered, so her husband coached her on what to look for when she became his eyes and ears in her constant travels around the country.

In spite of everything against FDR and the U.S. in facing the Nazis, FDR was intensely optimistic. This is what inspired the country and kept everything going. This was the beginning of The Greatest Generation.

Inspiring to read, again, the heroic efforts of FDR and Churchill to rally the people to defend democracy.

The UK was under siege and desperately needed America's help. But America was still very isolationist. Not only the America people, but the majority of the military were, first, against building weapons, and after a breakthrough on that front, sharing weapons with the UK.

It took FDR, drawing from intuition as well as fact, to impose his will to act. In the beginning it looked like a mistake, but as we now know it worked out.

The author offers a full-throated defense of FDR's mother who sheltered and controlled him for years. This surprised me. Other books on the subject are critical. She not only made FDR's life difficult, but also Eleanor's.

The book is well written, but over 600 pages long. It was published in 1994. There are very detailed accounts of unhappy childhoods, depression, and mental breakdowns. The author has great credentials, but I'm not sure this kind of detail would be included today. These incidents are important, but TMI.

The main focus is FDR and Eleanor and the build up to the War. This is what brings suspense to the story, not the vague feelings of various characters who come and go, or too much about main characters that don't connect to the main plot.

Just read the amazing story of how Eleanor helped secure FDR's nomination for a third term.

"Missy was jealous and took to her bed." CUT!

FDR was not an intellectual, but he had amazing intuition about the right course of action. He often had to fend off people on the Right and the Left who didn't get it. They never saw the big picture.

In his 1941 State of the Union Address, FDR called for “four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear."

The two most important war-time leaders in the U.S. against Hitler, FDR and Harry Hopkins, were in bad health and died young by that's era's standards. They gave it all to defeat the enemy.

Add to that list Missy Lehand, FDR's invaluable assistant for more than 20 years, who died of a stroke at age 42 faithfully and closely working with FDR under incredible pressure.


For a shorter, more recent book on FDR I recommend....



Reading this one now....

Profile Image for Ed.
869 reviews113 followers
November 8, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Tim.
133 reviews56 followers
January 25, 2023
Another great read from DKG!

No Ordinary Time focuses on the Roosevelts during the war years.

The highlight for me was the portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt. I came away from this book with a great appreciation for her ability to empathize with people who are less fortunate, and her courage to speak out. She is most known for her support for women, minorities, and labor groups, but what is less appreciated is her tireless efforts to support the war effort. She was a champion of the work of the soldiers, sailors, and the women at home who were supporting their families and entering the workforce.

While Eleanor recognized the dire importance of the war, she continued to speak out on causes to improve the homefront. She stood up to people trying to silence her. Attacks on her could get unimaginably ugly. Sometimes, the people trying to silence her were her political allies, who would try to bully her into believing that she is undermining the war effort, or helping out Republicans. Perhaps it takes even more courage to stand up to this line of attacks, but Eleanor did so. Though, she also listened to reason and did occasionally back off if she felt like it was the right thing to do. But if she felt people were trying to silence her just for their convenience, she would stand up to them.

Her ability to stay resolute, believe in herself, and work tirelessly for the causes she believed in (there are some fun stories about her remarkable work ethic), might make her seem almost robotic. But Eleanor was very human. DKG describes the vulnerabilities and insecurities beautifully. Some of these stemmed from childhood, having an alcoholic absentee father, and a mother she did not get along well with. DKG also describes various relationships – with FDR, her children, her parents, and others, where she felt deep hurt from betrayals, feelings not being reciprocated, or things just not working out how she wanted. Overall, the portrait of Eleanor from DKG in this book was very rich, and the human vulnerabilities described made me appreciate her accomplishments even more.

Then there is the story of her complex relationship with FDR. There were a couple key tensions in their relationship. One was that Eleanor was the idealist, and FDR was the politician. Eleanor was ahead of her time on a lot of issues, but often when she tried to push FDR, he declined, thinking that it would just get in the way of his other priorities.

The other was that FDR was an extrovert who liked to joke around, tell stories, and unwind – especially at the end of his day. However, Eleanor didn’t really have an ability to interact with people in a relaxed way.

Perhaps a third tension is FDR’s callousness. Some of the stories of how he repeatedly cheated on her, lied to her, and denied her requests to accompany him on trips abroad, paint FDR as having a very selfish side.

But, the relationship was remarkable in its own way. FDR did listen to and admire Eleanor. He seemed to enjoy having her take the role as his "conscience” and she had a very real impact on his decisions. And together, they did form a powerful team. Eleanor needed someone with FDR’s political skills to enact real change.

This is another highlight of the book for me, as I got a greater appreciation for FDR’s political acumen. He had an uncanny awareness of what the majority of Americans were thinking, and a unique ability to speak to them in a persuasive way. The idea of giving “fireside chats” was his own, and each speech was honed carefully to make sure it was understandable to ordinary Americans and struck the exact right tone. It was also FDR’s idea to use the framework of “lend-lease” to give Britain aid, which was a brilliant stroke of effective communication.

If you get the audiobook, you will also have the pleasure of hearing Nelson Runger do amazing voices for FDR, Churchill, Eleanor, and others. He is really good!
Profile Image for Becky.
64 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Steve.
329 reviews1,076 followers
August 28, 2017

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
Profile Image for Graham Shelby.
3 reviews15 followers
November 29, 2018
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 is marvelously 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.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
966 reviews100 followers
March 28, 2020
Fascinating, meticulously researched, well written, and unforgettable, it’s no wonder No Ordinary Time won the Pulitzer Prize for history, the Harold Washington Literary Award, the New England Bookseller Association Award, the Ambassador Book Award, and The Washington Monthly Political Book Award!

This remarkable book provides a close up account of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s years in the White House from 1940 to 1945. They were an extraordinary team. Franklin was an outstanding leader during World War II with his keen understanding of foreign policy while Eleanor provided insight into the concerns and issues on the homefront. Each of them were not without flaws, but their contributions to the country were profound.

However, the book covers much more than just the political climate as the publisher’s brief annotation reads:

“No Ordinary Time is a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States.

With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines—Eleanor and Franklin’s marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, and FDR’s White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.”

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Anyone interested in United States history would enjoy this book!

Profile Image for Markus Molina.
243 reviews11 followers
October 9, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Susan O.
276 reviews97 followers
February 15, 2017
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 Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit, 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.
Profile Image for Max.
342 reviews308 followers
December 12, 2013
No Ordinary Time provides an intimate view of Franklin and Eleanor’s unique relationship, one more of a working partnership than a traditional marriage. Written in a somewhat gossipy style, at times resembling a society page column with its homey details, Goodwin digs deep into the character of the Roosevelt’s. Focusing on the rights of minorities, women and workers, she chronicles the dramatic social changes of the period.

Goodwin presents the attitudes and situations of people in 1940, which were far different from today. First, racism and discrimination were widely practiced and accepted; Jews were considered a devious race and blacks an incapable one. Woman were believed to be only suited for household chores and raising children. After Pearl Harbor anyone of Japanese descent was looked upon as the enemy. Second, to earn a decent living or live in a decent home was not considered a right and most people had neither. Third, isolationism was strong with no concept of America’s international responsibility. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the horrors the Axis powers were inflicting on the world might as well have taken place on a different planet. Few recognized the threat Germany and Japan would present to the U. S. if they succeeded. Eleanor cared deeply about the social problems, her husband about the threat from abroad, and together they addressed economic inequality.

Goodwin gives us some revealing statistics. Poverty in the U. S. in 1940 was widespread and living conditions for most were deplorable. 31% of homes did not have running water. 32% did not have an indoor toilet. 58% did not have central heat. Only 40% of adults had more than an 8th grade education. America’s military was ill prepared in 1940. The U. S. army ranked 18th in the world behind the Netherlands, which fell quickly to Germany. The U. S. could barely field 3 divisions while Germany had 136 well equipped divisions. The U. S. had 400 combat planes and 450 tanks, enough to last perhaps a day in the highly mechanized European war. The U. S. army still placed armor under the cavalry whose advocates still felt the horse more dependable than the machine.

But Goodwin’s emphasis is the personal lives of the Roosevelt’s and their impact on social change, not the war. Eleanor is shaped by a difficult childhood with an alcoholic father and a beautiful mother who overcompensates for Eleanor’s plainness. Both parents die while Eleanor is young. Her grandmother sends Eleanor to boarding school in London in 1899 where the 70 year old Mme Souvestre had a profound influence in developing Eleanor’s confidence.

Franklin’s father was born two years before Mme Souvestre in 1828 during the John Quincy Adams administration. It’s amazing to consider that the President who authorized the development of the atom bomb, first detonated a few months following FDR’s death, was raised by a father born before the electric telegraph or even steam railroads operated in America. He and Eleanor faced a far different world than that of their parents and mentors, yet miraculously they were up to the task.

Two major events shaped Franklin and Eleanor and their relationship. First was Franklin’s affair with Eleanor’s assistant, Lucy Mercer which ended any notion of traditional marriage and hurt Eleanor deeply but freed her to be her own person and to work on the social issues she cared so much about. The damaged relationship also helped mature Franklin, but it was Franklin’s crippling polio that gave him the confidence to work through difficulty with calm. Adversity created strength for both of them.

Eleanor became an outspoken advocate for civil rights. She constantly pressed FDR to take action, but he was reluctant since it was politically risky. Only when threatened by a 100,000 man march on Washington by black leaders did FDR do anything. However, it was largely the war itself that created the first opportunity for blacks to work alongside whites with the armed forces haltingly taking the first steps. But one is left wondering without Eleanor’s advocacy how much would have changed. FDR gave in to her on race issues because black’s voted, at least in the north. Eleanor was also a huge advocate for women’s rights in the workplace and a critic of Japanese interment, an issue FDR rolled over on. She also stood up for helping European refugees including the desperate Jews, but FDR refused to help because of politics. After all, these people had no votes. In short, Eleanor always put her conscience ahead of politics or popularity. FDR seemed to want to do the right thing but always put politics first.

Goodwin ascribed to Eleanor’s influence everything liberal in the President’s agenda. The President didn’t generate his own ideas in the areas of social democracy but rather simply reformulated hers based on political acceptance. Eleanor was a workaholic crusader. The President is presented as a crafty politician, a charmer with reassuring mannerisms and gifted speaker who sized people up quickly and accurately, listened well and absorbed everything but kept his real thoughts to himself. Goodwin even assumes Eleanor’s influence on FDR’s famous Four Freedom’s speech, “Eleanor never claimed credit for anything her husband did or said, and there is no way of tracing the direct connection between Eleanor’s ruminations about democracy and Franklin’s concept of four freedoms, but the link seems obvious.”

FDR’s three year affair from 1915-18 with Eleanor’s assistant, Lucy Page Mercer, was a consequence of a troubled relationship. The gregarious FDR enjoyed the nonsense and banter at lighthearted get-togethers while Eleanor, always serious, felt she didn’t belong to FDR’s crowd. When Franklin reached out to Eleanor in 1942 to have a more normal marriage she rejected him. She couldn’t forget. FDR continued to turn to other woman for the feminine companionship he needed. Goodwin presents the strong influence of women on FDR, his self-centered mother Sara, his work partner Eleanor, his close companion and de facto wife Missy LeHand, his flirty companion Princess Martha, his compliant daughter Anna and of course, his lover Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. The one male close to FDR was his confidant and right hand man Harry Hopkins.

Yet for all his charm, FDR could quickly forget those he was closest too. When Missy LeHand, who the President relied on for years and spent endless intimate hours with, had a debilitating stroke, Eliot Janeway notes, “Roosevelt had absolutely no moral reaction to Missy’s tragedy. It seemed only that he resented her for getting sick and leaving him in the lurch. This was proof that he had ceased to be a person; he was simply the president. If something was good for him as president, it was good; if it had no function for him as president, it didn’t exist.” However Roosevelt did make financial arrangements to provide Missy medical care in the event of his death. Noting a similar lack of concern when FDR’s devoted friend Louis Howe died, Harold Ickes also observed, “despite his pleasant and friendly personality, he is cold as ice inside.”

On the return trip from the Yalta conference Harry Hopkins became very ill and stayed behind. “Roosevelt was angered by Hopkins’ decision to leave, ‘Why did he have to get sick on me,’ he muttered.” “All that Roosevelt could see was that Hopkins was leaving him, as Missy had left him before, and Louis Howe before that.” Hopkins, Howe and Missy LeHand were the three people Roosevelt most trusted and who controlled access to him during his presidency. It says something dark about Roosevelt’s character that when each fell sick or died that he was angry at them for deserting him.

Goodwin’s portraits lead us to the heart of Franklin and Eleanor’s relationship. “After initially valuing Franklin for his confidence, charm and sociability, qualities that stood in contrast to her own insecurity and shyness, Eleanor had come to see these traits as shallow and duplicitous. After being drawn to Eleanor’s sincerity, honesty and high principles, Franklin had redefined these same attributes as stiffness and inflexibility. “’She bothered him because she had integrity,’ Anna Rosenberg observed.” “’You couldn’t find,’ Anna Boettiger mused, ‘two such different people as mother and father’”

FDR was a great president who indefatigably and skillfully guided the American people through a depression and world war to a bright future. For the first time blacks were working alongside whites and woman alongside men on a significant scale. The war years were the only period in American history where there was a downward distribution of wealth. Growing income inequality is a hot topic today, but with this one exception it has always been that way. The Axis powers were soundly defeated and the U. S. became the most powerful nation on earth giving rise to the military-industrial complex that would dominate the rest of the century.

While one of our most effective presidents, FDR’s character left much to be desired. Perhaps most disturbing to me was FDR’s using his and Eleanor’s daughter, Anna, to arrange visits for his lover, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, to the White House and the Little White House in Warm Springs. Bad enough to see this relationship wrecker on the sly and risk grievously hurting Eleanor again, but to make their daughter a party to the deception is callous beyond belief. Lucy was with FDR when he died and of course the details of their relationship came out including Anna’s involvement. Eleanor was decimated. Before closing his casket for the last time, Eleanor took off her gold band and placed it in FDR’s hand to take with him. That says it all.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,707 reviews742 followers
October 19, 2014
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. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Nelson Runger did a great job narrating the book.
Profile Image for Joseph Sciuto.
Author 8 books125 followers
May 25, 2019
Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front In World War II" is no ordinary book. In fact, it is great... And to drive the point, even further, let me repeat that it is GREAT.

Mrs. Goodwin is an American treasure, her contributions as a historian are extraordinary. Whether she is dissecting Lincoln's Presidency in "Team of Rivals" or Teddy Roosevelt's friendship and rivalry with President Taft in "The Bully Pulpit" or her heartwarming tribute to baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers in "Wait Till Next Year" or her amazing, detailed, and poignant portrait of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the above reviewed book, one is always left breathless and in awe of her writing and certainly more educated and studious about our history and the amazing people who have contributed to our greatness as a country.

"No Ordinary Time" is a historical look at President Roosevelt's accomplishments as a leader before the war, during the Great Depression, and throughout the war as he oversaw the greatest military and industrial build up in the history of the world. It is hard to imagine any other President in the history of the 20th century who could have mustered and guided our country and its citizens and the world anymore masterful than this extraordinary, yet flawed, individual. It is not a far cry, and Mrs. Goodwin alludes to this in her book, to say that President Franklin Roosevelt is chiefly responsible for the freedom enjoyed today in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the world.

That being said, if one is looking for an unknown hero to emulate one should look no further than Eleanor Roosevelt. During this extraordinary and difficult time, she led the charge against racial discrimination in the military, in the work force, and against the living conditions that black Americans were forced to survive under. Her pressure on the President, his cabinet, the military and labor was one of the chief reasons for desegregation in the military, work force, and urban housing. (The Civil War might have ended slavery, but it did not free black Americans) She also championed women's rights in the work force, fought against the Japanese internment during the war, helped to set up the first child care centers for the millions of American women who entered the workforce during this period, and forced the President to include women in the politics of the time and that is just a few of the things this amazing and tireless woman did for our country and citizens... At no financial cost to the American public.

Besides, the wonderful portraits of these two incredible individuals, Mrs. Goodwin skillfully integrates the complicated relationships the President and his wife had with Churchhill, Stalin, their children, their confidants and everyday American citizens.

Truly an amazing book and no surprise the winner of the The Pulitzer Prize.

Profile Image for Nancy.
347 reviews31 followers
February 7, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Terry Cornell.
400 reviews35 followers
September 7, 2022
I've read many books on World War II, but this is the first where so much emphasis was placed on the Home Front, and what Americans went through that battled the war from home. I've read Goodwin's 'Team of Rivals', and this is just as conversational and revealing as that book. It is amazing to me the amount of research that goes into putting a work of this magnitude together, and the end product flows so smoothly for the reader.

By the end, I felt that I have a great understanding of Eleanor as a person, but Franklin seems to be a harder person to know and understand. Probably much like their personalities in real life. Goodwin does a great job of portraying what a team they were, and how much they accomplished together. Through their efforts, and the war huge strides were made in civil rights, women's rights, and improvements to the economy in general. I was aware of these issues before, but not to the extent covered in the book. World War II was devastating, but it also had lasting positive effects at home. An interesting read for anyone particularly history buffs. There's also plenty of family drama!
Profile Image for Teri.
647 reviews70 followers
March 3, 2017
An excellent, very well researched and written account of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the years leading up to WWII and follows through to their deaths. Goodwin concentrates on life in the US during these years, touching on subjects like civil rights, Japanese internment, worker's rights, and women in the workplace. While the book was dense, it was very readable. It was exhaustive and entertaining. It is also a very raw and personal look into the personal lives of the Roosevelts. Franklin was a proud and concerned President who spent over 3 terms in office working toward winning the war through to his dying day. Eleanor was a hardworking advocate of the people working toward human rights at home and throughout the world. Although they had much love for each other, they were separate, individual people whose work seemed to compliment each other. Yet they were not without their flaws and Goodwin captured warts and all.

Although it was a heavy read, it was very engaging. I feel like I have had a very personal peek into the lives of Franklin and Eleanor.
Profile Image for Susan in NC.
877 reviews
November 9, 2018
I read this book about the Roosevelts and the American homefront in WWII for the Book for All Seasons challenge to read a book about a tragic event. I listened to the audiobook while reading along with my own paperback copy of the book.

Since this massive, brilliantly written Pulitzer Prize-winning history covers the entire period of America’s time in World War II, it covers a huge amount of ground. Rather than trying to write a comprehensive, lengthy review, I’ll point out some of the things I learned in this book, or things that surprised me:

1. The most overwhelming, and frankly disheartening thing to me, was how far-sighted and dedicated Eleanor was about race relations and women in the workplace, and how, so many decades later, the struggles STILL continue. Gains were certainly made for the sake of the war effort, largely because Eleanor Roosevelt worked, pushed, nudged, and twisted arms – her husband’s and others - to improve the lot of working women and African-Americans, and did make some headway, but once the war was over, both groups were expected to return to their previous restricted roles in American society.

It would be 20 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and women, who had risen to the occasion and entered the workforce to make the war machine work when men went off to war, were fired before the war was even over, even though as the author points out, some women were now widows and the sole breadwinners for their families. I tried to be encouraged and inspired, but couldn’t help wondering how the Roosevelts would feel if they could see how far we still have to go in 2018!

2. The monumental task FDR faced in trying to prepare a largely rural, often unfit and poor, isolationist population for the possibility of war, while also bringing together the business, industrial and labor interests to develop the armaments to outfit a woefully unprepared military. I know FDR had a reputation as a master politician, but his charisma, overwhelming confidence and force of personality were astonishing in pulling off what seemed an impossible task. Talk about herding cats!

3. The sheer complexity of FDR and Eleanor’s relationship; I knew there had been infidelity on FDR’s part, and I knew that there had been rumors about Eleanor possibly having a lesbian relationship, but there was so much more between the two of them. From Eleanor’s lifelong insecurities, to Franklin’s need for adoring female companionship, and the constant, intrusive presence of his possessive, adoring mother, there was just a great deal going on between these two.

Despite the complications and dysfunction, they obviously complemented each other tremendously, and their hard-working partnership made for an incredibly dynamic, loving and powerful marriage.
It was the strength of their collective gifts and will that got America through a remarkably difficult time on the homefront, and in the process managed to win a world war, maintain the societal gains they had ushered in with the New Deal, and reshape the country into the modern, urban nation it became in the postwar period. An amazing book about an amazing pair during an amazing time of crisis.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
467 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2008
I love Doris Kearns Goodwin. This is by far the very best book (in my opinion) on what it was like to live here in The States during the Second World War. She describes the relationship between Franklin & Eleanor in human terms; their incredible political partnership existing within the tragedy of their lonely, asexual marriage, Eleanor's female attachments and Franklin's renewed relationship with Lucy Mercer. The descriptions of Winston Churchill's visits to the White House and his wanderings nude during the night are just hilarious....
Profile Image for Sherri.
289 reviews
November 1, 2022
Goodwin has to be the best non-fiction writer I have ever read. This is the second book I have listened to of hers, and I am in awe of her talent for writing and telling a story. She takes subjects that have been written about thousands of times and makes them gripping and new.

In this book, Goodwin focuses on the American home front during WWII and some of the most visible, unique personalities who shaped the times, including, of course, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. Through her words, the reader is witness to the evolution of a nation and national character, first stumbling out of the Great Depression, then confronting an unwanted world war horribly unprepared, and finally riding a war victory into the 50's and 60's with all the lurking unresolved social and political issues that would characterize those two decades. I felt like this book was a window looking in on the lives my grandparents and their parents must have led. Sometimes I think we have the feeling that the world is more terrible, uncertain and dangerous now than it has ever been. You only have to read Goodwin's book to realize how wrong that view is.

Goodwin's portrait of FDR and Eleanor and their marriage is nothing short of fascinating. It's a very full picture and doesn't shy away from the flaws and weaknesses. It tells a familiar story about how two people who love each other deeply can also hurt each other so much that they never heal from it.

I love the way Goodwin uses personal letters and diary entries to bring personalities and events to life. She is very good at it.

I was particularly taken in by Eleanor's story. As I read about her, I was continually reminded of Katharine Graham and her autobiography, Personal History. For personal and cultural reasons, both women were well through half of their lives before they really came into their own. Eleanor's struggle to come into her own, and lasting mark on the American social and political landscape is a true inspiration, and probably a type for the history of the American character as well.
Profile Image for Amy.
80 reviews
February 18, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,074 reviews711 followers
December 23, 2021
It doesn't seem that long ago that I read this. But I haven't found a review in my Goodreads.com folder, so it must have been prior to my Goodreads.com membership era. I was reminded of the book because it is the featured review on my PageADay Book Lover's Calendar for today. Below is the review from the calendar:
American heroes such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt can be so lionized that they cease to resemble living, fallible human beings. Doris Kearns Goodwin doesn’t make that mistake in this incisive portrait of an unlikely marriage conducted on the stage of world politics. The degree to which FDR was willing to compromise, and Eleanor most emphatically was not, is especially enlightening.
Profile Image for Doreen Petersen.
719 reviews109 followers
August 15, 2015
What a magificent book! Kudos to the author. Extremely well-written. Absolutely loved it and would recomend it to all.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,734 reviews1,469 followers
September 20, 2010
SPOILERS? - well maybe. I do present ideas and questions that arise in my mind as I learn about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and the Home Front in WW2

I totally loved this book. It was amazing!!! Tell me, how often do you read a history book that brings tears to your eyes when the main character dies? And here you have more than just one main character. You cannot help but fall in love with both Franklin and Eleanor. Their relationship is extraordinry. It feel so real b/c it is filled with good and bad. I was left feeling very sad for both of them. After reading this book they are not simply historical figures, but real people. With both weaknesses and strengths. The reader also gets under the skin of many other long-time residents of the White House, friends and companions of Franklin and Eleanor - Harry Hopkins, Missy LeHand, Lucy Perkins, Princess Martha, Churchill, Hick, Tommy, Sara Roosevelt, Anna and John Boettiger and don't forget the Scotty Fala. These people are no longer JUST historical figures - they become real live human beings. All the historical facts, military war strategies, conferences, labor, racial and civil rights issues, women's role in society, Jewish persecution and much much more are expained in the context of the individuals shaping history. This is beyond doubt a 5 star book!

Through page 355: To give a balanced review I must mention that the military strategies, the war particulars, the talks between Churchill and Roosevelt and Stalin and other many, many other individuals are all thoroughly discussed. I think this book would be of interest to a wide range of readers because it both explains underlieing characteristics of the prime protagonists and all the historical war details. The reader can choose the people or subject matter that interests them most. I personally am blown over by Eleanor's achievements and her personal integrity. I did not approach this book to specifically learn about her. It was Franklin and the Hone Front focus that drew me to the book! What a marvelous surprise. With this book learning becomes a pleasant pastime. I must mention that there are numerous photos and a drawing of the second floor family quarters of the White House.

Through page 164: Oh, I am laughing. I have to say one more thing. So Franklin was given really a hard time byt Eleanor's fight to help the black community. This was his reaction to these complaints:

"Never once, however, did the president move to curb his wife's activities on behalf of the Negroes. Do you mind if I say what I think, she once asked her husband. 'No, certainly not,' he replied. 'You can say anything you want. I can always say, 'Well, that is my wife; I can't do anything about her.'"

My husband and I sort of have this relationship....... I consider this team-work. :0)

Through page 163: I am totally captivated by Eleanor now. Without her, I am not so sure Franklin's term in office would have been so remarkable..... Her speech to the Convention before Franklin's third term of office - WOW! What a strange relationship. I am also thinking of the numerous permanent residents living in the White House. Nobody would ever thinking of making up such a story! Fact is more intriguing than fiction. But here follows another example of why I so admire Eleanor (page 163):

"During the thirties, Eleanor's public identification with black causes encouraged the hope of the black community. In 1938 when confronted with a segregation ordinance in Birmingham, Alabama, that required her to sit in the white section of an auditorium, apart from Mrs. Bethune and her other black friends, she had captured public attention by placing her chair in the center aisle, between the two sections. In 1939, she had resigned from ther Daighters of the American Revolution (DAR) after it barred the Negro singer Marian Anderson from its auditorium...... Although these actions may seem purely symbolic now, they must be evaluated in the context of their times....."

"The president was far more cautious than his wife. While Eleanor thought in terms of what should be done, Franklin thought in terms of what could be done."

Through Chapter 4, page 105: Had I just been a little patient and commpleted the chapter, I would have seen that my questions were soon to be answered. Eleanor's troubled childhood helps explain her behavior, both her strength of character and periods of depression. She has found her "first wartime cause in the movement to open America's doors to the refugee children of Europe." Her clever usage of visitor visas to get around immigration quotas was just the beginning. During the era of the New Deal Eleanor and Franklin had worked together as partners fighting for the same goals, now her role bacame agitator and his politician. Franklin was very aware of the plight of the Jews. While the Jewish population constituted only 3 percent of the total US population, 15% of Roosevelts top appointments were Jews. In fact the New Deal was jokingly called the Jew Deal by some! Roper polls clearly showed that Americans did not favor increased Jewish immigration, and all efforts to restrict Nazi infiltration were supported. What Eleanor and Franklin achieved is still best seen as team-work, even if sometimes they appear to be on opposing sides.

Through page 94: This book is never dry. The less the reader knows about a given subject, the higher is the chance that they find a non-fiction book dry, the easier it is to feel bombarded by all the facts. I am reading this book b/c I do not know much about FDR and Eleanor. I have not once been bored. I have not once stopped for a glass of water..... People want different things from a history book. I want to know who the characters are. This helps me understand the decisions they make. It is important to show a nuanced individual. Saying one thing can often be misinterpreted, so I need several examples to fully understand the underlieing traits. I am going to quote from page 73-74 to show you how this author will draw a picture for the reader. The following is about FDR and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt:

"Today, as for so many days throughout his fifty-eight years, the president's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, was at the door to greet him. Her waist had thickened over the years, but at eighty-five, she was still a handsome woman, with her high forehead, her thick white hair, and her gold lorgnette. Exquisitely dressed in white or black, the only two colors she regularly wore, Sara moved with great distinctness, embodying in her carriage the impression of superiority. But there was warmth in her eyes, and her smile was so startingly similar to her son's that audiences at movie theaters broke into spontaneous applause when they saw her face."

"As the president kissed his mother at the door, reporters recollected that it was just a year ago at the same doorway that Sara Roosevelt had greeted the British monarchs, King George IV and Queen Elizabeth, during their royal visit to Hyde Park....."

"It is said that in the weeks before the king and queen arrived, Sara's neighbors along the Hudson had asked her if she was going to redecorate the house. 'Of course not,' she responded, in her best starchy manner 'they're not coming to see a redecorated house, they're comin to see my house.'"

"On the day of the visit, Sara had waited in the library with Franklin and Eleanor for the king and queen. Much to her displeasure, Franklin had prepared a tray of cocktails for the royal visitors. For years, the question of serving alcohol in the Big House had been a point of contention between mother and son - so much so that Franklin had simply gone around his mother by moving his cocktail hour to a secret hiding place in the cloakroom beneath the stairs....."

"But on this occasion, Franklin had proved as stubborn as his mother, insisting that the alcohol remain in open and ready condition. When the king came into the library, Franklin greeted him with a twinkle in his eye: 'My mother does not approve of cocktails and thinks you should have a cup of tea.' The king reflected for a moment and then observed, 'Neither does my mother.' Whereupon the president and the king raised their glasses to one another in an unspoken bond and proceeded to drink their martinis."

The reader is shown how Eleanor and Franklin and all those around them did actually behave, rather than being told in neat summarized sentences that impart no real truth.

I am trying to understand the complicated relationship between FDR and Eleanor. At this poin I instinctively admire Franklin's optimism and empathy and his belief to support military aid to France, England, Belgium.... The predominant Isolationist and big business wanted to protect their own back first. Eleanor "stressed the importance of renewing democracy at home in order to make the fight for democracy abroad worthwhile" (page 30) Her efforts stressed aid to the poor and sick, support of union rights and help to the American people in the aftermath of the Depression. FDR had such optimism and an ever strong belief in the American people to do what ever they set their mind to. In one "fireside chat" he said the Americans could BOTH help the allied forces AND build up their own reserves. He had a huge belief in himself and his country. As Franklin's attention gets turned more and more on to the war and his tight relationship with Harry Hopkins strengthened, Eleanor felt worthless. She felt she wasn't doing anything. She wanted to go with the Red Cross to Europe - and this was not allowed. She was a very capable person and she was so darn frustrated by "not being able to do anything". What bothers me is that she is depressive and jealous .... OK, I admit, she was only human. This woman is so driven, but also she simply could not stand to be completely out of the "lime-light", although Franklin was consistently praising her work. Then the book discusses her earlier family life, about her beautiful mother and drunken father, but still qustions remain. I cannot expect everything to be made clear at once. Still, how could Franklin, who has such empathy for suffering, not have seen to it that Jews were allowed into the US in large numbers? What were the restraining factors? What happens to his optimistis spirit of fighting for what you think is right? I certainly don't understand Eleanor's frantic drive for work and the jealousy that arises when she isn't momentarily playing a major role. Eleanor wasn't pretty. Perhaps her inferior looks were so frequently compared to her mother's outstanding beauty, that she sought to shine elsewhere. I am just guessing. I am reading the book to learn more about the people and the historical facts!

Through page 49:I am already drawn in and can see that the writing is right up my alley. The auhor draws a picture of FDR and Eleanor that goes beyond a strict recounting of the facts, but it doesn't get gossipy. There are troubles between the two but also the respect and love between them is clearly evident. It is so important to look at both of them b/c they both shaped history. To understand what happened you have to understand who they are as individuals. You must understand their relationship. The author has done this from page 1. This is one of those exceptional history/biography books that keeps the reader's interest because you see the characters not just as leaders but also as human beings. That is what I have noticed so far. I love it

Although the book is said to only cover the time period May 1940 through December 1945, thus portryaing the Home Front in WW2,that is not really true. Many events prior to this time period ohave shaped the characters to make them who they are on May 1940. These events are all included, and in a very interesting manner. What childhood experience made FDR so scared of fires? Why was he unable to sack employees, even thoughs who were sick or consistently drunk? What were the negative AND positive results of this "weakness"? Why was Eleanor so obsessed with her work? What roll did Missy play, and why?
Profile Image for Dan.
248 reviews
March 17, 2013
I have never been a big history buff. Growing up I thought my lack of interest was because history is about learning dates and facts and I was more interested in understanding the relationships between things and why they are the way they are. A great professor in college showed me that history can be fascinating if approached with a view of understanding the relationships that caused events to unfold the way they did. I now enjoy history when presented in this way.

I started to read Goodwin's Team of Rivals about Lincoln after seeing the film Lincoln. I found it to be very slow moving and more about the other three candidates who were running against Lincoln than about Lincoln himself. I was missing the relationship between the other candidates and Lincoln. I cannot say that Goodwin did not get around to developing those relationships, only that she did it so slowly as to lose my interest.

I had her book about the Roosevelts on my reading list for some time. I noted that it had won a Pulitzer Prize and decided to give her another chance. I am so glad I did. This book is so different from Team of Rivals that I wonder what has changed. I found this book to move along at a good pace. It develops the relationships in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's lives that contributed to their views and leadership styles.

I also found the similarities between pre-WWII US and today striking. The conservatives and progressives were arguing about many of the same economic issues facing us today with little apparent room for compromise. It seems it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to unite the people of the US to work together.

Another big take-away for me was that military historians agree that the US industrial might did more to win the war than the soldiers on the battlefields. This book shows that Franklin Roosevelt was key in leading the US to produce the weapons and supplies needed at a pace that most had thought was impossible. It is also clear that Eleanor played a large role in advancing civil rights for many groups that had fewer advantages than wealthy, white males.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,945 reviews28 followers
November 23, 2008
I love this book. I'm fascinated by the changing social attitudes and conditions during World War II in the United States. I'm also captivated by the personalities of both Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor and so I was a happy camper while reading this book. It is a detailed examination of the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor and their ability to overcome emotional distance to create a unique partnership. Both realized that the United States could not emerge from the war if it was a unified cooperative nation and both Roosevelts worked for this common purpose. One of the most fascinating parts of the book is Goodwin's description of the White House as "a small, intimate hotel" during the war years, housing the family, friends, staff members (Missy LeHand), and foreign visitors (Winston Churchill). I highly recommend this interesting, very readable book.
Profile Image for Randy Endemann.
6 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2008
This is a marathon of a book that I found difficult to put down. Goodwin's depiction of the Roosevelt's during WWII takes on a very narrow timeline that unfolds week by week. Her knowledge of the subject becomes clear in her attention to detail. It is not nearly a chronological history, it is more of a personal portrait which explores the emotions, motivations, and fears of America's greatest president, and those around him.

History has afforded us perspective that the subjects of the book lacked. One must keep that in mind when reading this book; historical decisions and precedents were not so clear cut at the time. Within that context, the story of the Roosevelts is much more spectacular.

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