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

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - Doris Kearns Goodwin 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?