From Publishers Weekly
"In my view, the Roosevelts' bond was political in every sense of the word," writes Rowley, who also argues that despite the difficulties in their marriage, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt always genuinely loved each other. And the difficulties in the marriage were many: Franklin's domineering mother; his flirtatiousness with attractive women; Eleanor's long, maddening retreats into self-righteous silence whenever she was hurt or angry. After 11 years of marriage, Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce upon discovering his affair with her social secretary, Lucy Mercer (she, not Eleanor, would be with FDR when he died). But after he was struck by polio in 1921, she tolerated Franklin's long romance with his secretary, Missy LeHand, while FDR allowed Eleanor her romantic relationships with her chauffeur, Earl Miller, and journalist Lorena Hickok. Despite Rowley's (Christina Stead) cheerleading that the cousins' conflicts brought out their courage and radicalism, and that they loved with a generosity of spirit that withstood betrayal, FDR emerges as a narcissist while Eleanor carved a spectacular life for herself out of a flawed marriage. While much of this story is familiar, the book is nonetheless an engrossing account of an unusual pairing of two extraordinary people. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Nov.) (c)
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The literature on the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is vast as well as deep. Most of us are familiar with the basic facts of the seemingly practical partnership that forged an entirely new model for America’s first couple. Everyone agrees that their individual and joint contributions to the social, political, and cultural landscape of twentieth-century America are immeasurable, but most believe their personal achievements exacted an excruciatingly high personal cost. Rowley, refreshingly, disagrees as she paints a compulsively readable portrait of a vibrant partnership and a successful, albeit unconventional, marriage that nevertheless suited the ambitions and the temperaments of each partner. There are no good or bad guys in this glimpse into the intimate spousal accord that bound the Roosevelts together; both Franklin and Eleanor emerge as willing participants in an unorthodox covenant that defied societal norms and expectations in favor of a productive and mutually beneficial working partnership built on friendship, mutual admiration, and abiding intellectual respect. It might not be everyone’s idea of an ideal marriage, but it seemed to work for them, so why argue? --Margaret Flanagan