When looking us over, the French have often been astonishingly acute, e. g. de Tocqueville, or farfetched and fretful, e.g. de Beauvoir. Andre Maurois extends to neither extreme; his book, despite the usually cosmopolitan concerns of its author, is thoroughly middlebrow, middleclass and moderate, exactly the ethos we've come to consider homegrown. The book, running from 1912 to the present, is part of a two-volume parallel history of the USA and USSR; the latter, scheduled for January release, is written by Louis Aragon, poet laureate of the old guard communists and utopian whoop-de-doer. Thus the whole endeavor appears rather fair, like TV's ""equal time"". However, we mention it only to warn off anyone wanting a commentary really critical, controversial or complex; the Maurois talents lie elsewhere. He fuses many disparate facts, fancies and figures, ties up varying socio-cultural strands; above all there's a fondness for and first-hand knowledge of what he's writing about, from Wilson to Roosevelt, from the Jazz Age to the Depression; through Truman and the Cold War. And if the overall judgments are generally as comfortable as an old shoe, the particular portraits are always telling (Eisenhower ""needed to respect those he employed""; he ""could never like Bonaparte, have made use of a Talleyrand, utilizing and despising him at the same time""). A popularly persuasive book which explained the Americans to the French and is bound to entertain and enlighten American themselves.