Oh man. I don’t even know where to start. I’m about to have a gush-fest, so just deal with it.
I loved this book. Like hugging-a-book loved it. Like after 650 pages I wanted more loved it. Like I cried probably 10 times loved it. I LOVED IT.
So while I’ve been reading all of these presidential biographies, I have to admit that through most of them I’ve had this thought in the back of my head: “Ok, but had someone else been president, the same basic decisions would have been made.” There have only been a few (George Washington, Abe Lincoln, maaaaaybe Jackson) that have stood out to me as, “Well, omg, this dude changed the future of America. He set us on a new path and there is a very, very good chance that without him we’d be in a much different place right now.” In FDR’s case, we’d be in Biff Tannen’s 1985 or under German rule or… who even knows.
I knew a bit about his involvement in WWII just from reading other things about it, but I really was in the dark about how he got into office facing the Great Depression and basically stomped it out in his first 100 days. He somehow intuitively knew what needed to be done and just… did it. With a smile on his face. From a wheelchair. I mean daaaang.
And his marriage. Oh man, his marriage. It is this tragic, beautiful, so sad story… I don’t want to ruin it. You have to read this.
Speaking of that: I feel like the other really good piece that I took away from this was the media then vs now. It was well known in political circles and in the media that FDR had a pretty serious mistress for quite some time but they just kept it mum because they figured it was none of their business. Same with FDR being paralyzed: they just didn’t talk about it. They reached an agreement not to photograph him in his wheelchair and they stuck by it. There was a separation between personal life and public life and that simply doesn’t exist now. It was interesting to read about.
I think that the author did an outstanding, perfect job of blending the story of his family life and his social life and his political life into this really great, cohesive thing. I think that he was, clearly, a bit awestruck by FDR but didn’t shy away from the bad decisions he made too (ahem, Japanese internment camps, anyone?) which I think is a heard balance to strike.
I liked Grant by the same author, but was totally, totally blown away by her take on FDR. It was well researched, well written and just overall outstanding. If you don’t read it, you really are missing out.