BOOK REVIEWSby Dr. David B Woolner
Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian
The Roosevelt Institute
Senior Fellow Center for Civic Engagement
Professor of History
Marist College. Reviewed by Christopher Breiseth
On December 14th, I attended a book signing/lecture by David B. Woolner at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY. His book, THE LAST 100 DAYS: FDR AT WAR AND AT PEACE appeared in book stores that day. An audience of 150 people attended Woolner’s talk which was filmed by C-SPAN. My closest colleague during my years as president-CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, David had sent me a desk copy which I had the opportunity to read before this premier event. It is terrific.
The work establishes a symmetry between the first 100 days of the Roosevelt Administration, when the domestic New Deal legislation began a redefinition of the relationship between the American people and their government, and FDR’s last 100 days when he led the Allies against Nazi Germany to the edge of victory and secured commitments from Stalin to establish the United Nations and to enter the war against Japan.
Acknowledging the President’s deteriorating health as a factor, which has increasingly drawn the attention of historians, Woolner charts on a virtual daily basis the efforts of FDR to pursue with laser like focus his war and peace objectives. Even as his body gave way in early April of 1945 at Warm Springs, he was still managing the relations with Churchill and Stalin and preparing for the opening of the United Nations in San Francisco.
Woolner’s coverage of the Yalta Conference and its importance in shaping the post war world I believe will become the dominant interpretation of that crucial moment. I have read many books about Franklin Roosevelt but I have never felt closer to the man – and the leader – than when reading Woolner’s book.
The very favorable book jacket blurbs are written by Ken Burns, David Reynolds, Jonathan Alter and E.J. Dionne. The one dimension of Woolner’s success I feel they missed is his masterful control of the world diplomatic scene – David is a diplomatic historian – against which to appreciate Roosevelt’s own mastery of the war and his preparations for the peace.
The book is published by Basic Books and costs $32.00 in hardback.