In This Review

FDR: The War President, 1940-1943
FDR: The War President, 1940-1943
By Kenneth S. Davis
Random House, 2000, 848 pp

This is the long-awaited fifth volume of Davis' life of Roosevelt. There will not be a sixth, as Davis passed away in 1999, but the achievement cemented by this book is monumental. Calling himself a "hero-needful author," Davis frankly confesses his admiration for F.D.R. but nonetheless remains cold-eyed about "so multilayered, devious, and secretive a role-player." American decision-making at the pivot of world history, 1940 to 1942, is masterfully depicted in all its human detail. What stands out is Roosevelt's remarkable capacity to comprehend the bewildering interactions of global power -- even as he repeatedly seemed to turn away and attempt to escape from the consequences of this comprehension. Like his country, F.D.R. was far from single-minded in these epic years. But he was willing and able to think and act strategically.