No Ordinary Time

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

NO ORDINARY TIME is a well-timed book, published as it is on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing stages of World War II. It also is competently researched and written. It adds little to knowledge or understanding of the war itself, however, and is too long and sometimes tiresome.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were extraordinary people in positions of extraordinary influence in American society at an extraordinary time. The trouble with the book under review is that it covers ground already covered by any number of other books. Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of THE FITZGERALDS AND THE KENNEDYS (1987) and LYNDON JOHNSON AND THE AMERICAN DREAM (1977), is pleased with her own scholarly efforts, as no doubt she has cause to be. “This book relies predominantly upon a multitude of primary materials,” she states in her “Note on Sources.” So it evidently does. According to Goodwin, the White House Usher Diaries were “an especially invaluable guide at the start of the project. These day-by-day, even minute-by- minute chronologies reveal when the president and the first lady awakened, who joined them for meals and meetings, how much time was spent with each visitor.” The details of domestic life at the White House will fascinate some readers while seeming ordinary and tedious to others.

Goodwin’s device of alternating between narration of events on the home front and abroad and details of the First Family’s domestic concerns and comings and goings might seem inspired, but in the execution it putters along. There are better books to begin with to gain an understanding of the political and social context of World War II. Nevertheless, Goodwin does present an illuminating portrait of her chosen subjects.

Sources for Further Study

American Heritage. XLV, October, 1994, p. 14.

Booklist. XC, August, 1994, p. 1987.

Chicago Tribune. October 2, 1994, XIV, p. 1.

Library Journal. CXIX, September 15, 1994, p. 79.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 9, 1994, p. 2.

The New Republic. CCXI, October 10, 1994, p. 42.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, September 11, 1994, p. 9.

Newsweek. CXXIV, October 3, 1994, p. 61.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, August 1, 1994, p. 65.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, September 18, 1994, p. 1.