“This is just my government at work. Who is loyal, who is not? Who is a friend and who an enemy? Whoever they say. And the government does not make mistakes.”
Roosevelt shines light on a pivotal time in American history. Not all the World War II drama was on the battlefields; not all the atrocities happened at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; not all the good-old-boy rings were rednecks; not all the heroes wore uniforms.
“You know what I’m saying is right.” “That’s the problem, Eleanor. Everyone knows they’re right. We have law to protect us from our best instincts as well as our worst.” “What rubbish. … You listen to their stories and tell me again that everyone’s right.” “I know the stories. I just came from Tule Lake.”
The best type of historical fiction: hews close to what actually happened, introducing fictional characters and events sparingly to draw it all into one understandable—and dramatic—whole. Events eighty years past might well be medieval for today’s readers.
“What Hoover asks is a betrayal of that trust, of course, but there is a greater one, and I seek to cure it.”
All the major characters willingly break the law to uphold it. Each is self-justified for every action taken. Unfortunately, the protagonist is enough of a society snob (bespoke suits, ready cash, a Packard with tires and gas despite rationing) that many readers won’t identify with him.
“Nobody makes money, my boy. Wealth is not created ex nihilo. The Crash taught us that, if nothing else.”
Most characters accept as axiomatic Keynesian/Marxist dogma that no value is created; it is taken from someone else. The same seems true for other values.
“Law and history are lies we tell ourselves to explain why things should be the way they are.”
Quibbles: Logistics is too easy. Not critical to enjoying the story, but “a procession of black government cars …” or “a long line of Army trucks that assembles …” appear on short notice in the middle of nowhere. Travel is always direct and slowed only for narration. Cash never falls short for resources, even if merely appropriate tennis clothes.
“The story of America is a story of trying to live up to our ideals, of falling short, and of trying again. Thinking about the past is one way we may hope to do better next time.”