Hazel Rowley describes the remarkable courage and lack of convention--private and public--that kept FDR and Eleanor together. She reveals a partnership that was both supportive and daring--a partnership that they created according to their own ambitions and needs.
In this book, Rowley takes on the Roosevelt marriage: it's ups and downs and all the eccentricities in between. The Roosevelt marriage has taken on a shroud of mystery over the years that many have attempted to uncover. Rowley does a fantastic job not (blatantly) "taking a side" in the discussion of the relationship that FDR and Eleanor had. Their marriage was definitely non-traditional and what we know about them is today (still) clouded and incomplete. Rowley, I think, would lead us to believe that such a mystery was intentional. The conventions of yesterday and today would still look down upon a marriage such as Eleanor and FDR had. They weren't the perfect couple, as many want to believe, but they had a successful marriage built on mutual trust and understanding. Rowley takes the reader from the very beginnings of their relationship through the end, with FDR's death and Truman's swearing in.
Rowley's writing makes this read like a novel. It is enjoyable and fast-paced--not a dull moment (which, I suppose, one might expect when talking about the Roosevelt marriage). This is probably the first time that a non-fiction biography has actually moved me to tears. I would definitely recommend this book to history fanatics, mild history fans, WWII fans, avid readers...everyone!
The author makes it clear that Eleanor and others journals, letters, and interviews were often scrubbed to present the truth as they wished it to be presented. Eleanor wrote a long three volume autobiography but was very circumspect in protecting the FDR's and her personal legacy. The history of her and FDR's affairs are frequently preserved in their love letters to their lovers and some tell all testimony years after FDR passed away. They both achieved greatness but never contentment in love with each other. A sad indictment on a life lived less fully than it should be. I am a bit jealous of his large collection of books and living room filled with shelves full of books but hope for more faithful fulfilled living in my personal love life.
The author briefly mentions the falsehood that Charles Lindbergh was an anti-Semite Nazi sympathizer which is not accurate. She does not mention one of FDR's first public embarrassment with the Air Mail situation in 1934 choosing instead to identify the court packing effort to grow the Supreme Court as his first great set back as president. Towards the end of the book the author went from telling the story of the relationship of FDR and Eleanor to the story of their deeds and legacy. Not a bad end but I feel like she started to soon as the last few years together could have been fleshed out more.
I feel I must add that though I felt the author approved and admired Eleanor she was very fair with both FDR and Eleanor to record both their good qualities and bad and let their story tell the story of who they were. Stylistically well written and put together with a smooth flow to the story.