Saturday, March 22, 2014

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

This historical work of 636 pages,  along with 72 pages of notes, a bibliography of 13 pages and a 28 page index is a monumental work that consumed my attention and  kept me reading all through the cold winter month of January.  I have been interested in the Roosevelt's  ever since I can remember. I have read other books about them and the era,  including "Too Close to the Sun"  by grandson Curtis, but  wanted a factual work devoted to FDR and Eleanor.  Since  McCullough has not written on them I searched to find a notable author and struck gold with this work. .  Doris Goodwin delivers  depth, detail, historical fact within  a treasured reading experience of biography about this historical time of our country, evidenced by the Pulitzer prize awarded her for history.  This book was right up my alley and will remain a keeper in my personal library.  First published back in 1994 it is a timeless reading experience. 

See my review on this blog of Too Close tot he Sun"
http://patsbooksreadandreviewed.blogspot.com/2013/03/five-books-read-reviews-pending.html

"No Ordinary Time" takes its title from the inauguration of FDR and a phrase Eleanor used.  It hones in a specific era,  the home front of our country immediately before  World War II  up to the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) as  chapter by chapter unfolds the personalities, ideals, intents and  guile of the two main characters, FDR and Eleanor.  Accompanying this in an excellent narrative of the attitudes of the population of this country, the influence of Stalin and Churchill and the WWII era with historical perspectives and analysis that contribute to understanding how the country elected FDR so many times.  It has taken me too long to post it here to my reading blog but reflecting I still savor its reading.

 Although FDR is known as the father of the New Deal, an initiator of socialist programs
Back cover
especially urged by Eleanor, his human side and weaknesses are fully explored.  His  relationship with his mother, Sara, who adored her only child and controlled their lives until she died  is fascinating.  His affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherford, that impact on his marriage. and the later complicity of his and Eleanor's  daughter, Alice, with later time spent with Lucy in his final days paints a not so devout picture of him.  After reading all this I wonder  today how he would fare under the guise of media, surely he would have been adored but how venomous would the political attacks be?  Was he simply brought up to not demonstrate emotion and there by unable to provide warmth and support to relationships, turning his back on those who could no longer give him the adoration and attention he wanted.  His personal assistant, Missy Le Hand who  suffers strokes after devoting her life to  his needs is but one significant victim of his aloofness or inability to offer comfort.  FDR is shown to be a rather needy person who revels in the company of people while Eleanor is the opposite.  He always wanted someone at hand even if ey simply sat and  watched him work on his stamp collection.  
 Eleanor is another distinct case study in personality without answers, was she simply crushed by her husband's  affair so that she could never again allow herself to be set up for hurt?  Was she really a lesbian or did she simply enjoy the company of intellectual women? It is fascinating from all perspectives.  She certainly was above all else, curious, committed to her ideas and generous with others.  Her almost comical pursuit of information for FDR as she  was his eyes and ears around the country is a source of political cartoons such as her descent into a coal mine to see conditions for herself, captioned by "Here comes Mrs. Roosevelt."  Eleanor was a very intriguing multi faceted person.  

Although I  wrote eight pages of notes to the book, I will not go into that depth here.  Suffice it to be a first class 5 star ***** read, a keeper, excellent scholarly historical non fiction.