Thursday, December 2, 2010

Franklin and Eleanor

Recently I read a review of Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage and also heard one on the radio. I have read several books on Franklin Roosevelt, including Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meachem, which I highly recommend by the way, and had Yakov read for American History a couple of years ago. I want to read Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency Of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H. W. Brands but have been intimidated by the 912 pages. Franklin and Eleanor is a more manageable 368 pages. I know, I am embarrassed that it mattered but it did. I recently finished a very large book that took me 6 weeks to finish plus, I was checking this one out from the library and would only have 2 weeks to read it. I could read 368 pages in that time frame and in fact it only took me 5 days, 5 very enjoyable, can't-wait-to-get-back-to-the-book days.

The focus is, as the title suggests, more about their marriage than his presidency. And it is a marriage that, as they say on Facebook, is "complicated." Franklin was a very needy man, who was accustomed to great attention from his adoring mother, and thus wanted adoring people around him all the time. No one person could have met Franklin's needs. Eleanor who grew up without loving parents always felt the need to earn any affection she received. Both wanted lots of people around all the time and the White House almost seemed like a boarding house and their property at Hyde Park like a commune or summer camp.

Despite infidelity on his part and quite possibly on hers, Eleanor and Franklin were inextricably linked and dependent on each other. There was a shared sense of purpose and trust in the judgment of the other. BTW this book is not a repetition of juicy gossip but an examination of the marriage, the alliance of two prominent people and how they respected each other and worked together but also worked around each other at times. PRM

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