The Washington Post
FDRby Jean Edward Smith
In this superlative volume, Jean Edward Smith combines fresh scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to chronicle the epic life of one of America's greatest presidents. This is a portrait painted in broad strokes and fine details. We see how Roosevelt's restless energy, fierce intellect, and effortless grace permitted him to master countless… See more details below
In this superlative volume, Jean Edward Smith combines fresh scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to chronicle the epic life of one of America's greatest presidents. This is a portrait painted in broad strokes and fine details. We see how Roosevelt's restless energy, fierce intellect, and effortless grace permitted him to master countless personal and political challenges throughout his life; how his skill as a campaigner, particularly his mastery of the burgeoning mass media, revolutionized the fundamental bond between the American people and their government; and how his vital relationships with women-romantic and otherwise-helped to mold his personality and inform his worldview.
In FDR, Smith gives us a powerful account that adds fresh perspectives and draws profound conclusions about a man whose story is widely known but far less well understood, and the clearest look yet at how a man who never had to depend on a paycheck became the savior of the common man. The result is a stunning biography in every way worthy of its subject.
The Washington Post
Independent biographer Smith (1996's John Marshall: Definer of a Nation and 2001's Grant) crafts a magisterial biography of our most important modern president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Scores of books have been written about Roosevelt, exploring every nook and cranny of his experience, so Smith breaks no "news" and offers no previously undisclosed revelations concerning the man from Hyde Park. But the author's eloquent synthesis of FDR's complex and compelling life is remarkably executed and a joy to read. Drawing on the papers of the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library as well as Columbia University's oral history collection and other repositories, Smith minutely explores the arc of FDR's intertwined political and private lives. With regard to the political, the biographer seamlessly traces Roosevelt's evolution from gawky, aristocratic, political newcomer nibbling at the edges of the rough-and-tumble Dutchess County, N.Y., Democratic machine to the consummate though physically crippled political insider—a man without pretensions who acquired and performed the jobs of New York governor and then United States president with shrewd, and always joyous, efficiency. As is appropriate, more than half of Smith's narrative deals with FDR as president: the four terms (from 1933 until his death in 1945) during which he waged war, in turn, on the Depression and the Axis powers. As for the private Roosevelt, Smith reveals him as a devoted son; an unhappy husband who eventually settled into an uneasy peace and working partnership with his wife and cousin Eleanor; an emotionally absent father; and a man who for years devotedly loved two women other than his wife—Lucy MercerRutherford and Missy LeHand, the latter his secretary. This erudite but graceful volume illuminates FDR's life for scholars, history buffs and casual readers alike. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Smith (political science, Marshall Univ.; John Marshall: Definer of a Nation), a constitutional law scholar and the author of several penetrating biographies, including an account of one of our least regarded presidents (Grant), now tackles a President of the highest repute. To understand Franklin D. Roosevelt's legacy requires an appreciation for the unique role that the United States occupies in world history. Understanding America's founding promise and the challenges of the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II, Smith unravels the motivation of perhaps the greatest U.S. President—if not the greatest democratic leader—of the 20th century. Smith clearly admires both FDR and his policies. Rather than finding new data, the author excels at placing his narrative in a balanced context. He is especially effective in undermining conspiracy theorists who see Pearl Harbor as a presidential ploy to get the United States into war. As he did so effectively with John Marshall, Smith shows FDR as a human being capable of betrayal, hubris, and stubbornness. This page-turner is the best single-volume biography available of America's 32nd president, complementing the recent work of Doris Kearns Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) and Conrad Black (Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom). Essential. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/07.]
William D. Pederson
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.34(w) x 9.49(h) x 2.13(d)
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