In This Review

Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World
Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World
By Michael Fullilove
The Penguin Press HC, 2013, 480 pp.

Fullilove is a gifted narrative historian, as this immensely readable and enjoyable book demonstrates. His tale of the men U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt sent on overseas diplomatic missions in the crucial years preceding the United States’ entry into World War II benefits from Fullilove’s eye for telling details and knack for entertaining anecdotes. Unfortunately, the subject cannot bear all the weight Fullilove places on it. Amid the careful political strategy and slow but inexorable unfolding of Roosevelt’s relentless march toward war, these emissaries -- among them W. Averell Harriman, Sumner Welles, and Harry Hopkins -- were significantly less important than the book maintains. Fullilove also neglects the crosscurrents in relations among the Allies; there is little here, for example, about Roosevelt’s determination to use World War II to break the British Empire and replace it with a Washington-based international system. The book is more an amuse-bouche than a serious dish. Perhaps Fullilove’s future work will combine the artistry and flair on display here with a sharper focus on larger events.