Book Review Thursday: The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait

RooseveltsI’ve read a few books of late on the Roosevelts, one on Teddy and his Amazonian adventure by Candice Millard and another on Franklin’s early years by Geoffrey C. Ward.  Both were excellent books, carefully and meticulously researched by both authors.  I had planned to catch the Ken Burns PBS documentary earlier in the year, but since I missed it I picked up the accompanying book by Ward and Burns.

I wasn’t sure if I would learn any more about the Roosevelts, except perhaps Eleanor.  Since I didn’t see the film I presume the book might have basically been the documentary’s narration.  Nevertheless, it turned out to be an informative book, filling in a few gaps in my general knowledge of Theodore and Franklin and gave me some insight on Eleanor.  It was an easy read (the 528 pages include pages and pages of documentation; the actual book isn’t all that long really).  There are many chapters, but they are short and end with accompanying photos and documentation.

The pictures and documentation included in the e-book were a nice touch.  Sometimes I find e-books aren’t formatted very well with pictures and it makes for an awkward layout.  This one was different and helped to bring the story more up close and personal.  For the hardcover edition, it would make a great coffee table book.

I had only heard bits and pieces about Eleanor, and perhaps I’ll read more about her later, but this book gave enough insight to help the reader understand, especially later in her life, what “made her tick.”  Her early life wasn’t easy with her mother’s untimely death and her father’s alcoholism which eventually took his life.  These things combined to make her “one tough cookie” I suppose.  In so many ways, she and Franklin were polar opposites, he with his pampered upbringing and an over-protective mother.

The lives of these three Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin distantly related and Eleanor a niece of Teddy’s, were intertwined in history.  The Roosevelts of Oyster Bay and the Roosevelts of Hyde Park had their differences, but when all was said and done, they were Roosevelts and proud of it.  Ward summed it up in a brief epilogue when he described a moment in 1939 when Franklin and Eleanor began to reminisce about visits to Teddy’s home on Sagamore Hill when they were children.  Teddy always insisted the children run down the sand dune to the ocean:

“It was awfully steep,” FDR said, “the sand went down with you and you were darned lucky if you didn’t end [up] halfway down, going head over heels.”

And climbing back up, Eleanor recalled, you slipped down one step for every two you took.  But you kept at it, and eventually the fear was worn away.

So if you haven’t seen the documentary and are interested in an “intimate history” of the Roosevelt clan, you will find this book a great read.

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.


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