Examination of Franklin Roosevelt adviser Harry Hopkins (1890–1946) and his largely behind-the-scenes role in the outcome of World War II.
Iowa-native Hopkins rose through the ranks of public service during the 1920s to become one of the architects of FDR’s New Deal programs. A bureaucratic genius with serious health problems, he was a controversial figure in his day. He once harbored presidential ambitions of his own, but his lasting influence, argues Roll (co-author: Louis Johnson and the Arming of America: The Roosevelt and Truman Years, 2005), is due to his diplomatic efforts on FDR’s behalf with the key members of the Allied coalition to defeat the Nazis. The author writes in a clear, concise style and is able to keep the narrative moving briskly through policy discussions and squabbles among politicians, diplomats and military leaders. The “touch” referred to in the title is the same quality of personality that enabled Hopkins to form relationships with not only Roosevelt and Churchill, but also Stalin and other officials (Churchill dubbed him “Lord Root of the Matter”). Hopkins’ unique relationship with FDR has been covered before, most famously in fellow aide Robert Sherwood’s 1948 Pulitzer Prize–winning Roosevelt and Hopkins. While conceding his debt to Sherwood, Roll makes use of copious material that was not available at that time, including documents from the former Soviet archives, to present a fuller portrait. The storyline that emerges is that of all-too-human men—often petulant, stubborn, wrongheaded or too easily manipulated—making decisions that would affect the course of world history.
A compelling portrait of a World War II hero whose victories took place far from the battlefield.