‘Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945’

Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over all, worth it. There is little inside that is controversial, or novel. Indeed, Mr. Kennedy devotes not a little brainpower to debunking some of the controversial and novel myth-making that had preceded him. And he does so ably.

But you should realize that this is, as it says, a history of the New Deal and of the United States’ involvement in World War II. It is a big-picture view, with insightful and engaging big-picture analysis. And despite its being a part of the so-called Oxford History of the United States, it is only those things. The words Joe Dimaggio and Joan Crawford do not appear anywhere in its 800-some pages, for instance; “John Steinbeck” does, but only to add muscle to contemporary descriptions of real life. (It seems “Grapes of Wrath” was fairly spot-on.)

In other words, if I had to criticize this book, which was good fun and is much-recommended, I would say that I would gladly have read past 1,000 pages over all if Mr. Kennedy had discussed, you know, movies and radio and, I dunno, art. Possibly his editors would have laughed at that suggestion; probably that was farther than he wanted to go. No one asked me, I know.

In any case, it is not often that I enjoy a book that I wish was 200 pages longer, but I wish it had been.

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