Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: December 1941 by Craig Shirley

December 1941: The Month That Changed America and Saved the World
written by Craig Shirley
Nelson, Thomas, Inc. 2011
ISBN13: 9781595554574
656 p.
Grades 9 and up
Reviewed from e-book copy provided by BookSneeze for free.
All opinions expressed are solely my own. Book provided for honest review.

BLURB: December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World traces, day-by-day, the most important 31 days in the history of America's participation in WWII, which snuffed out the lives of millions and changed history forever.
      From December 1, 1941, until the morning of December 7, 1941, America was at peace and-with the exception of the stubborn and persistent high unemployment of the Great Depression-was a relatively happy country.  By the afternoon of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, America was a radically changed country, forever. Its isolationist impulses evaporated, and both major political parties became more or less internationalist. The month also introduced food and gas rationing, Victory Gardens, scrap drives, a military draft, and the conversion of Detroit into an "arsenal of democracy." From the moment of America's entry into World War II, people of all kinds, but mostly women looking for work, flooded into the city. Instant apartment buildings sprang up, as did eating and drinking, salons, all to the advantage of the massive increase in spending generated by the federal government.
      December 1941 is a fascinating and meticulously researched look at the American home front-her people, faith, economy, government, and culture-during a month that radically changed the American way of life.


I quite enjoyed reading this book.  I appreciated the incredible amount of detail that the author included.  I can only imagine the weeks, months, and even years he must have spent working on this.  I would have to read the book a dozen times to even begin to appreciate everything that happened during that brief month.  It was fascinating to read about what it was like experiencing the profound events of December 1941.  Ironically, it reminded me somewhat of the things that happened after 9/11.  The panic, the anger, the confusion, backlash, fear, etc.  I guess while time and technology continue to change, people and their behaviors don't.

I learned a lot about FDR and Churchill while reading this book.  My admiration for their leadership in the face of tragic circumstances has increased.  While I don't agree with everything they did, I do admire the courage and determination they demonstrated.  
 
One thing I found especially interesting about this book was the emphasis on information gathering from the media of the time, newspapers, magazines, presidential documents,etc.  This gave a much more immediate feel to the book.  It also demonstrated how difficult it is for the media to be accurate in the information they provide.  With a limited amount of space and time, it becomes very easy to print inaccurate, even false, information.  I also found it fascinating that each chapter began with some of the headlines from newspapers.  Each writer took a different approach to the events rapidly unfolding and the information they provided to the public.  It reminded me that no matter how hard they try, writers, editors, and news anchors simply cannot be completely objective.  We all see things through our own unique set of ideas and experiences.  The focus on the information provided by the media means that the information in the book may not be completely accurate.  I haven't read enough about that time to be able to recognize factual and editorial errors which others have pointed out in other reviews, especially the political aspects, but I did notice that the author tried to make it clear when a source was expressing something that had not been verified.

I also appreciated the inclusion of cultural events occurring during this time, it helped provide immediacy as I read.  It brought the time and people more to life for me.  Overall, I thought it was a thoroughly researched and readable account of a fascinating period in United States history.

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