STARRED REVIEW
October 2015

FDR’s most impactful year in office

By Jay Winik
There is nothing so compelling as history well told, whether in print or on film. And viewers who were engrossed by Ken Burns’ recent PBS series on the Roosevelts will find Jay Winik’s new book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History, especially appealing. Winik, who has written about America’s founding (The Great Upheaval) and the Civil War (April 1865), brings his considerable gifts as a storyteller and a talented historian to this new work exploring the pivotal year of Roosevelt’s presidency and of World War II.
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There is nothing so compelling as history well told, whether in print or on film. And viewers who were engrossed by Ken Burns’ recent PBS series on the Roosevelts will find Jay Winik’s new book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History, especially appealing. Winik, who has written about America’s founding (The Great Upheaval) and the Civil War (April 1865), brings his considerable gifts as a storyteller and a talented historian to this new work exploring the pivotal year of Roosevelt’s presidency and of World War II. 

Winik seamlessly sets FDR the man, beset by physical limitations and increasingly bad health, within the context of the complex, high-stakes international challenges he faced. In the spring of 1944, Winik shows us a Roosevelt exhausted and ill, plagued by headaches and a hacking cough—a man who sometimes fell asleep in the midst of dictation. 

Yet Roosevelt was also a “resolute and clear-sighted wartime leader,” a leader unwilling to accept defeat when, as it did during that crucial year, the entire history of civilization seemed to hang in the balance. Looking back, the defeat of Hitler and the success of the Normandy invasion may seem inevitable, but at the time this was far from the case. At the same time, Winik explores in detail the implications of the Roosevelt administration’s decision not to launch military strikes against Nazi death camps. 

As the 75th anniversary of America’s entry into World War II approaches next year, Winik has given us a chance to move beyond simple commemoration to a fuller understanding of the era.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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1944

1944

By Jay Winik
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781439114087

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