Review

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Home Front in World War Ii (audio)

by Doris Kearns Goodwin



The author paints an image of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt so
vivid and real that as you listen to the story you feel you are
reliving the exciting history of that time with
them.  Far from putting the two on a pedestal, you get to
know them warts and all, and the main difference between the
scandals of present-day Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt is the
treatment by the press.  Franklin had several mistresses
who lived with him in the mansion quite openly, although we are
never sure how much Eleanor was aware of.  It's these
unexpected scandalous little tidbits that keep us listening
intently.

During the Roosevelt's time in office, the White House was a
boarding house full of all sorts of odd ducks, including Churchill
and his staff, FDR's secretary and confidant, Missy LeHand, who was
desperately in love with her boss, Eleanor's secretary Lorena
Hickok, Princess Marguerite, and numerous other
hangers-on.  The president's right hand man, a sickly
Harry Hopkins, had an apartment there; in fact we learn that FDR
was responsible for saving his life.  After Hopkins
married, his wife lived there, also.  The Roosevelt's
only daughter, Anna, became her father's social secretary after
Eleanor's schedule kept her away from the White House for months at
a time.  The many Roosevelt grandchildren stayed in the
Mansion much of the time.  They often had 1,500 guests at
one time.    

We learn of Eleanor's struggle to stand up to her indomitable
mother-in-law, Sara Delano, who was convinced that Eleanor had
stolen her baby boy, even though they were fifth
cousins.  FDR was an active 39 year old when he was
struck down by polio after a sailing and yachting weekend and all
the Roosevelt money could not change the fact that he was left an
invalid.  He never wanted any sympathy.  Most
Americans were not aware he was utterly dependent on his braces and
wheel chair. Photographers never photographed him in an
unflattering situation.

FDR started his "fireside chats" in 1941 to prepare the public for
the war he knew was coming.  Through the author's skill
we learn how carefully those broadcasts were presented, and how
hard they worked to make them seem just like a friendly chat from a
neighbor.   FDR successfully dealt with the depression
when the largest percentages of Americans were out of work, and he
brought in the "New Deal".  He was on top of the "Bank
Holiday" and prevented it from becoming as bad as it might have
been.

It is obvious that Eleanor was a woman far ahead of her time, yet
she provided a conscience and a stabilizing influence on her
husband, though he rarely acknowledged her talents.  It
certainly was NO ORDINARY TIME.

Although the author hints at a possible indiscretion by Eleanor,
the story I found most interesting was that of Franklin's
longstanding love affair with the beautiful Lucy Mercer, Eleanor's
secretary.  When Eleanor found a packet of love letters
from Lucy in her husband's suitcase, she apparently agreed to
forgive him and stay with him on two conditions: first, that FDR
would NEVER see that woman again, and second, that Eleanor not have
to "do her duty" in the bedroom again.   They both kept
their agreement for many years, but it was a shocker to me to learn
that after Missy's stroke left her an invalid, and Princess
Marguerite returned to her husband, FDR's daughter Anna complied
with her father's request to put him in touch with the newly
widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherford.  

The public was told that the afternoon the president died of a
brain hemorrhage, he was at a cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia,
having his portrait painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.  He
was 63 years old.  The truth of the matter is that the
artist was a friend of Lucy Rutherford and FDR was spending the
weekend with her.  It must have been very hard for
Eleanor to learn this hard truth, and even harder to forgive her
daughter for arranging it.  

An amazing story of strength and human weakness.



Reviewed by Carolyn B. Leonard on January 22, 2011

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Home Front in World War Ii (audio)
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

  • Publication Date: September 1, 1995
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • : pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • ISBN-10: 0671534513
  • ISBN-13: 9780671534516