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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Teddy Roosevelt's larger-than-life personality and accomplishments have made him a popular figure for historians and biographers. What, then, distinguishes Kathleen Dalton's Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life? In contrast to other more idolatrous portraits of TR, this engaging volume offers up a less worshipful, perhaps more balanced biography of an exceptional man. Dalton acknowledges that TR accomplished great things, but she also makes abundantly clear that he was nonetheless very human, and prone to missteps and depression.
While the biography explores his life, both public and private, Dalton writes most passionately when detailing the development of TR's progressive consciousness. Not without criticism, she charts his rise from coddled child of a prominent family to fiery reformer to, finally, enlightened internationalist and traitor to his class. While the author condemns TR's lapses into demagoguery and "muscular Christianity," she nevertheless lauds his impressive roster of accomplishments as a conservationist and peacemaker. The skeptical author considers Roosevelt the first modern president: part imperialist, part populist. Surprisingly, the highlight of the book may be Dalton's rousing account of what may be TR's greatest failure: his post-presidential attempt to construct a progressive coalition through the Bull Moose Party.
In the near-glut of historical biography, Dalton's work offers readers an original perspective. Warts and all, her realistic portrait shows us a a man struggling to lead the United States (and himself) into the modern era. Dana Isaacson