The Hopkin's Touch

The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler - David Roll

I am in fact amazed to what extent I enjoyed this book. How many times have I said I don't like books that focus on military strategies? This book does focus on war strategies, but I was never bored. Hopkins and Roosevelt together planned how to best win the war. Roosevelt relied on Hopkins more than any other individual. They discussed every step. Hopkins resided in the White House for more than three years; he was at Roosevelt's beck and call 24 hours of the day from 1940-1945, unless he was in the hospital. He attended almost all the important conferences except for Potsdam; Roosevelt was dead and Hopkins had resigned at that point. The discussion of when the channel crossing should be set was fascinating, along with the decision to invade Northern Africa. Hopkins was the glue that kept the Anglo-American and Soviet tripartite coalition together. How did he do this? He could read people. He was an expert negotiator.

This could all be very boring, couldn't it? All I can say is that it wasn't. It was in fact fascinating, probably because you come to recognize the idiosyncrasies of Stalin, Churchill, FDR and Hopkins too. Small amusing details are thrown in: Churchill in his dressing gown. Did I hear correctly that it was pink?! The guy was always drinking and then there was the funny moment at the a conference in Quebec when Churchill remarks to Hopkins that the water tasted funny. Hopkins replied that was simply because it lacked any trace of whiskey. Parts are exciting - when the Iowa battleship was torpedoed by friendly fire! The entire American delegation was on that boat. The book is interesting, clear, amusing and well worth your time!

It is remarkable what these two men, Hopkins and Roosevelt, achieved. Two men who were seriously ill. Roosevelt died in April 1945 and Hopkins February 1946. This is something to consider - how hard these two pushed themselves! Hopkins’ digestive system seriously malfunctioned.

So what could have been improved? What is lacking? There is only to a lesser extent information about the youth of either man. The book is instead about the war and what jobs Hopkins held before the war, thus giving him the training necessary for the job, but do you learn to read people? Isn't that an ability that you are born with? Neither is the focus on the respective men's illnesses; their medical illnesses are stated; how they conquered/ignored their disabilities is instead the main issue. Other family members are discussed, but not in depth, just enough to make the reader feel acquainted with them or to make you laugh about particular habits! Maybe I would have liked to know more of Hopkins personal reflections…..but perhaps this is quite simply not known!

The narration by Fleet Cooper was OK. I would have preferred that he less dramatized his reading, and he had a peculiar pronunciation of the word material. Every time he said that word I jumped; the emphasis on "al" was all wrong! Heck, these are not serious problems, none of them.

One other complaint: the author all too often stated that so and so "must" have thought that, and he "most probably" did that. Find out and tell me. I don't want a bunch of suppositions. In 1941 Hopkins was in England during the Blitz, and yet it is implied that he was carousing out about town; I thought he must have been sleeping. He was terribly ill, tired and worn out! Sounded like a bit of an exaggeration!

My complaints are not significant. What is important is that this book was extremely interesting and had a good mix of humor and quirky details. It keeps your attention and makes what could easily be a big bore fascinating.