THE BEST YEARS: 1945-1950 by Joseph C. Goulden

THE BEST YEARS: 1945-1950

Email this review


This mammoth social history of the postwar years takes as its point of departure William Wyler's acclaimed 1946 movie of three vets, home from the war. Goulden (The Superlawyers, Meany, The Benchwarmers) throws everything into the hopper: demobilization and VA boon-doggles, the GI Bill and the collapse of price controls; the wave of strikes led by Reuther and Lewis and the rash of Mr. Levitt's ""little boxes"" which answered the housing shortage; consumer hunger for new cars and quick foods and the national addiction to The Romance of Helen Trent and The Shadow; Rita Hayworth and Alger Hiss; The Kinsey Report and the Truman Doctrine. The stated intent is to avoid ""hindsight and revisionism"" and to recreate the period from within. The distilled verdict is ""Yes, they were good years, because I was putting my life together and making enough to get by on. . . ."" As a researcher Goulden is thorough; but overall the effect is miasmic, sometimes platitudinous. The problem is one of perspective: the book is neither a recreation on contemporary terms nor a retrospective analysis. Goulden fails to ferret out why, for example, Fortune magazine found that the Class of '49 ""is taking no chances."" The conclusion when it comes, is hardly startling. By the time of the Korean War--when the UN had become largely a cipher, the pogroms of HUAC had destroyed the wartime sense of unity, the specter of McCarthy was waxing large--and ""America had misplaced somewhere and somehow the driving moral force it had carried into the war."" A limp finish to and exhaustive, amorphous work. A BOMC selection for midsummer.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum