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FDR's Shadow: Louis Howe, The Force That Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230609104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230609105
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A well-written, thoroughly researched account of the complex relationship between the Roosevelts and Howe."--The Oklahoman
"This is an interesting and well-written examination of a relationship that greatly influenced policy and politics at the onset of the New Deal." -- Jay Freeman, Booklist

"Fenster presents first-rate insights into Howe's motivations and the ways in which he overcame Eleanor's initial dislike to become an important political mentor to her. This enjoyable read will appeal to presidential history buffs and those interested in the evolving role of the presidential assistant. Essential for all collections on U.S. Presidents." -- Library Journal

"This is a much-needed, thoroughly researched, and engagingly written account of the only indispensable adviser in the rise of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Julie Fenster well captures her elusive and eccentric subject." -- Conrad Black, Publisher of the London Daily, Sunday Telegraph, and Spectator, and author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon.

“Once again Julie Fenster delivers the goods. FDR’s Shadow is a brilliant look at how the indomitable and enlightened Louis Howe became the mega-advisor of the Roosevelt Clan. A must read for anybody interested in U.S. political history. Every page sings.” -- Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.

"Louis Howe's remarkable career as the political savant behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's rise to power is one of the greatly underappreciated American stories of the last century.  Julie M. Fenster's concise new biography of Howe, based on freshly released material, is a welcome corrective -- a whale of a story told with intelligence and grace."--Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, and author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

"FDR’s Shadow: Louis Howe, the Force That Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt provides insights and analyses that will be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about the political landscape of that seminal period of American history." --Claude R. Marx, Boston Globe

"Indeed every member of both houses of the Congress has at least one "dragon-at-the-gate" who rations access to the boss, who edits the speeches, and keeps a check on promises that cannot be kept.  But the Howe-Roosevelt symbiotic relationship is a darker story and Ms. Fenster brings a new depth to it."  --Washington Times


About the Author

Julie M. Fenster is the critically acclaimed author of The Case of Abraham Lincoln and co-author with Douglas Brinkley of the New York Times bestseller Parish Priest and the PBS documentary Faith and the Founders of America. Fenster’s previous books include the award-winning Ether Day and Race of the Century. She lives in Central New York.

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Customer Reviews

The book makes for an intriguing read up until page 166.
Tom Brody
FDR's Shadow is an excellent biographical account of the life of Louis Howe, close friend and key advisor to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Amazon Customer
This book demonstrates how these two unlikely men were able to work well together.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. J. Kregarman VINE VOICE on August 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the great advantages of the Vine program is that one is, at times, encouraged to become aware of most excellent writers and important bits of history. This is one of those times. Julie M. Fenster is one of those writers and this is one of those books. Louis Howe surely had a tremendous influence on American history as he more than any other Democrat, even Roosevelt himself, was responsible for FDR's election to the presidency and Eleanor Roosevelt's political, public blossoming. But the scope of this book is broader than just Howe's biography. Julie Fenster paints a marvelous picture of the New York political world in the early part of the twentieth century and illuminates Roosevelt's life during those times. A great read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I waited months to purchase Julie M. Fenster's new book, FDR's Shadow: Louis Howe, the Force that Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Howe was nicknamed "the kingmaker" for setting the path for Franklin Roosevelt to become president. Unfortunately, although this book is beautifully written, it is very incomplete

Louis Howe started out as a newspaperman, and eventually became FDR's political advisor, confidant, best friend, and even what would today be his chief of staff. Many could not see Howe's genius and instead, focused on his looks (he was a small, wizened, gnome-like, unhealthy specimen of a man who dribbled cigarette ashes all over himself). But early on, Howe saw something in FDR and started addressing him as "Beloved and Revered Future President." Howe set a road-map for FDR's accession, and cultivated friends and worked deals. When this road was threatened by FDR's polio in 1921, Howe had to fight Sara Roosevelt (FDR's mother) to get him back into politics. From this time onward, Howe pretty much lived with the Roosevelts and never returned to his family. FDR would have never gotten the nomination for president at the Democratic Convention in 1932 without Howe making back-room deals. "A typical impression of Howe was that he was veritably smitten with Franklin Roosevelt and wanted nothing more than to live, homely as he was, through the handsome aristocrat with the friendly charm. That version of their relationship, though, smacks of a fairy tale and overlooks the fact that Howe had a vision for American society. Had the Roosevelts not shared that vision...Howe would not necessarily have followed them."

Howe was first FDR's friend. But when FDR contracted polio, he and Eleanor became a team.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"FDR's Shadow" tells the unusual story of the relationship between FDR and Louis Howe and their families. Louis Howe was one of those cheer leaders, sounding boards, a general right hand men needed by any highly successful politician. Howe grew up as the asthmatic son of an upstate New York Democratic newspaper editor who gave Louis an introduction to his vocation, journalism, and his passion, politics. It was on his beat of reporting on the New York legislature that Howe met then State Senator Franklin D. Roosevelt. They established a working relationship which continued when Roosevelt took Howe to Washington upon Roosevelt's assumption of the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In FDR's 1920 campaign for vice-president it was Howe who had to keep the candidate focused on his audience and his goals. It was during this campaign that Howe began mentoring Eleanor Roosevelt as she emerged from her cocoon and blossomed into a campaign partner and a leader among Democratic women.

Howe's role in the Roosevelt household transformed in 1921when Franklin was stricken with polio. Eleanor sent for Howe who immediately left Washington for Campobello. From this day forward, Howe would be a part of the Roosevelt household and an occasional visitor to his own.

In what today would be called crisis management, Howe assumed direction of the medical treatment, access to the cottage and, eventually, FDR's transportation back to New York. In the years that followed it was Howe who kept Franklin and Eleanor focused on his rehabilitation and return to the world of politics. Howe's total dedication to FDR was illustrated by the time spent with Franklin making and racing model boats, while excluding their own sons from this pass time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Very few if any biographies of Franklin Roosevelt fail to mention his friend and supporter Louis Howe. Howe was also responsible; in part, for the emergence of Eleanor Roosevelt's emergence as a political presence, allowing her a way to still engage with FDR following his infidelity and betrayal. Although Eleanor was first put off by Howe's bad habits and gnome like appearance, she developed a deep appreciation of his fidelity to both her and Franklin. He encouraged her to find her own voice and to work as an extension of her husband. Louis Howe was not an imposing man, he was of slight build, disheveled, and suffered a myriad of illnesses. His devotion to the Roosevelts was a curiosity and matter of speculation. After meeting FDR in 1911, Howe was convinced that Roosevelt was presidential material and he began to guide FDR's political career. Under Howe's guidance, FDR turned towards the working class (this branding him a traitor to his class} and often was a trusted sounding board for both the Roosevelts. Julie Fenster's FDR's Shadow is a thoroughly researched look into a man once referred to as "most private' of the President's private secretaries". A well researched look into one of the greatest political "king makers".
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