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FDR: The War President, 1940-1943: A History
ISBN 0679415424 / 9780679415428 / 0-679-41542-4
Publisher Random House
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The fifth volume of Kenneth S. Davis's magisterial, much-praised biography follows FDR from his re-election to an unprecedented third term in November 1940 through New Year's Eve, 1942, when he screened a brand-new film, Casablanca, at the White House. During the intervening 25 months, President Roosevelt prepared a reluctant nation for the war that he knew was coming, then struggled to maintain the government's commitment to his New Deal social programs, as well as the conflict overseas. Like its predecessors, this installment combines shrewd, intimate psychological insights into Roosevelt's character with a sweeping historical narrative of world events and a superbly detailed account of Washington political maneuvers--all three laid out in grave, elegant prose. Perhaps Davis's most notable achievement lies in tracing the links between FDR's personality and his leadership style: the unexpected benefits of his maddening indecisiveness, his ability to use even his crippling physical handicap to political advantage, the way in which the adult president cemented personal and professional ties with the evasive charm that he developed in adolescence to defend himself against a smothering mother. Admirers of serious yet accessible biography can regret only that the author's death in 1999 means that there will be no concluding volume to this magnificent series, which has shed so much light on one of the more complex men ever to inhabit the White House. --Wendy Smith [via]