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The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family
     

The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family

by William J. Mann
 

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The award-winning author presents a provocative, thoroughly modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair.

Drawing on previously hidden historical documents and

Overview

The award-winning author presents a provocative, thoroughly modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair.

Drawing on previously hidden historical documents and interviews with the long-silent "illegitimate" branch of the family, William J. Mann paints an elegant, meticulously researched, and groundbreaking group portrait of this legendary family. Mann argues that the Roosevelts’ rise to power and prestige was actually driven by a series of intense personal contest that at times devolved into blood sport. His compelling and eye-opening masterwork is the story of a family at war with itself, of social Darwinism at its most ruthless—in which the strong devoured the weak and repudiated the inconvenient.

Mann focuses on Eleanor Roosevelt, who, he argues, experienced this brutality firsthand, witnessing her Uncle Theodore cruelly destroy her father, Elliott—his brother and bitter rival—for political expediency. Mann presents a fascinating alternate picture of Eleanor, contending that this "worshipful niece" in fact bore a grudge against TR for the rest of her life, and dares to tell the truth about her intimate relationships without obfuscations, explanations, or labels.

Mann also brings into focus Eleanor’s cousins, TR’s children, whose stories propelled the family rivalry but have never before been fully chronicled, as well as her illegitimate half-brother, Elliott Roosevelt Mann, who inherited his family’s ambition and skill without their name and privilege. Growing up in poverty just miles from his wealthy relatives, Elliott Mann embodied the American Dream, rising to middle-class prosperity and enjoying one of the very few happy, long-term marriages in the Roosevelt saga. For the first time, The Wars of the Roosevelts also includes the stories of Elliott’s daughter and grandchildren, and never-before-seen photographs from their archives.

Deeply psychological and finely rendered, illustrated with sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs, The Wars of the Roosevelts illuminates not only the enviable strengths but also the profound shame of this remarkable and influential family.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/24/2016
Celebrity biographer Mann (Tinseltown) extends his reach to politics with a chronicle of the Roosevelts that spans the presidencies of both Teddy and Franklin. Mann posits that the two Roosevelt clans, that of Oyster Bay (Teddy’s branch) and that of Hyde Park (F.D.R.’s branch), were for the first half of the 20th century locked in combat for political ascendency. Uninterested in the substantive policies of the Roosevelts, Mann instead depicts a family whose members are defined by single-minded personal and political ambitions, awash in dysfunction that includes betrayals, rampant alcoholism, suicide, affairs, divorces, unhappy marriages, illegitimate children, the abandonment of familial loyalties, and more traditional political dirty tricks. Mann also speculates, based on sound sources, that Eleanor had a long-lived same-sex relationship and another possible physical relationship with a younger male protégé while first lady. Mann is an accomplished and persuasive writer, and he builds affecting portraits of his players that generally support his underlying themes. His weakness lies in his inability to leave unmined any Roosevelt family peccadillo. Also, Mann’s choice to emphasize the Roosevelt family dynamics and virtually ignore the contemporaneous historic events may leave readers with a sense of incompleteness. Agent: Malaga Baldi, Malaga Baldi Literary. (Dec.)
Library Journal
10/15/2016
Frequent biographer Mann (Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand) synthesizes previous histories and uncovers notable primary sources, including much material on former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt's illegitimate half brother, to demonstrate the struggles within the Roosevelt dynasty, based as much on rival personalities as on differing political policies. Mann's critical approach unveils the measures the Roosevelts took to conceal the social transgressions of nonconforming family members. Patriarch and 26th U.S. president Theodore (Republican) pushed his own children toward often unrealistic competitive goals and institutionalized his alcoholic brother Elliott (Eleanor's father), limiting Elliott's contact with his children. Theodore's cousin and 32nd U.S. president Franklin Delano's (Democrat) benign neglect of his progeny left them relatively directionless. As Mann points out, the antagonism was not only between the Republican Oyster Bay and Democratic Hyde Park Roosevelts, emphasized in the 2014 documentary The Roosevelts, but also within each family branch. VERDICT General readers will want to include this insightful and provocative work among their volumes on the consequential and multidimensional Roosevelt family.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-09-19
A compulsively readable account of the decadeslong rivalries, grudges, and battles between and within the Roosevelt families of Oyster Bay and Hyde Park.The most direct link between the two distant clans was Eleanor, daughter of Theodores younger, philandering, alcoholic brother Elliot. Pitied by the family for her timidity and homeliness, Eleanor grew up to marry Franklin of the Hyde Park Roosevelts and become the most consequential first lady ever. Mann (Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood, 2014, etc.) sketches the career progress and high achievement of the three Roosevelt titans, but he focuses on the private history and the cost of their unceasing quest for political power to themselves, their spouses, lovers, children, and close friends: how Teddy Roosevelts fear of scandal caused him to spurn his brother; how his example, his drive, and ambition distorted the lives of his sons, particularly Ted Jr., whose political career never quite measured up, and Kermit, whose shady business dealings and alcoholism led to suicide; how his troubled bond with daughter Alice led to her own hollow marriage, her thwarted ambition for her brother Ted, and her bitterness at the rise of the usurpers, Franklin and Eleanor. Eleanors refusal even to meet her illegitimate brother, Elliot Roosevelt Mann, whose story will be new to most readers, her vexed relations with her mother-in-law and her own children, and her complicated, intimate attachments to female friends all receive Manns close attention. He also spotlights FDRs affairs and the unconventional life of his cousin Jimmy. Kermits doomed son, Alices affair with Sen. William Borah, Eleanors remorseless taunting of cousin Tedthe stories tumble out until no skeleton remains closeted. Perhaps best known for his popular film biographies and histories, and thus no stranger to tales of scandal and coverup, feuds and intrigue, Mann writes sympathetically about all the Roosevelts but particularly the black sheep, the nonconformists whose births into this powerful family imposed special burdens.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062383334
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/06/2016
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
30,003
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.80(d)

Meet the Author

William J. Mann is the New York Times bestselling author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn; How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood; Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand; and Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. He divides his time between Connecticut and Cape Cod.

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