cover image The Borrowed Years: 1938-1941 America on the Way to War

The Borrowed Years: 1938-1941 America on the Way to War

Richard M. Ketchum. Random House (NY), $29.95 (896pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56011-3

This powerfully evocative re-creation of a period of American innocence--the three years preceding the bombing of Pearl Harbor--is a labor of scholarship that pays off richly. A mixture of history, firsthand memory and judicious interpretation, the book describes how Americans clung to their innocence even as the country faced the prospect of imminent war. Ketchum captures the era in detail, describing it with color, warmth and immediacy. Woven into the narrative along with political, military, economic and cultural themes are the author's poignant reminiscences of his coming-of-age at that time, ``when most of my friends and I were singing and dancing and laughing away the last hours of youth while the lights, as they used to say, were going out all over Europe.'' Finally, Ketchum ( The Winter Soldiers ) conveys perfectly the American mood of anger and exhilaration that followed the news of Pearl Harbor. Photos. (Oct.)