The National Book Award-winning William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University offers a history of the decade whose conflicts shattered America's postwar order and divide us still.
... [a] luminous guide to a tumultuous decade ... Boyle elegantly narrates the ’60s through his three lenses—race, militarism and sexuality—and The Shattering wears its scholarship lightly. Still, there are some things he might have done differently. His early chapters sketch the background decades but try to cover too much ground and end up disjointed. He also might have made less of the War on Poverty’s original intention ... But these are all small challenges on the margins of Boyle’s bright narrative.
... [a] rich, layered account of the 1960s ... Whatever consensus politics existed in the 1950s, Boyle sets out to contextualize it in terms of the interests belonging to a particular postwar demographic—the rapidly growing middle classes ... Boyle’s roiling account is full of...juxtapositions, showing how conflicting impulses made for a 1950s political order whose stalwart exterior masked a 'fragile arrangement' ... the book covers the range of material you would expect from any foundational account of the 1960s and the penumbra around it—Kennedy in Dallas, King in Memphis, unrest in Newark and Watts, LSD and the pill. But he also writes about those moments that can sometimes get lost in the deluge.
Along with most professional historians, Boyle rejects the commonly held assumption that a Berlin Wall separated the consensual 1950s from the divisive '60s. In the '50s, he demonstrates, amid repression, racism, anxiety and anger, boundaries were contested and occasionally broken. Inevitably, given the number of books on the 1960s, a lot of material in The Shattering will be familiar to readers. That said, Boyle enlivens his narrative with emblematic vignettes.