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Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship [Kindle Edition]

Jon Meacham
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)

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Book Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The most complete portrait ever drawn of the complex emotional connection between two of history’s towering leaders

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were the greatest leaders of “the Greatest Generation.” In Franklin and Winston, Jon Meacham explores the fascinating relationship between the two men who piloted the free world to victory in World War II. It was a crucial friendship, and a unique one—a president and a prime minister spending enormous amounts of time together (113 days during the war) and exchanging nearly two thousand messages. Amid cocktails, cigarettes, and cigars, they met, often secretly, in places as far-flung as Washington, Hyde Park, Casablanca, and Teheran, talking to each other of war, politics, the burden of command, their health, their wives, and their children.

Born in the nineteenth century and molders of the twentieth and twenty-first, Roosevelt and Churchill had much in common. Sons of the elite, students of history, politicians of the first rank, they savored power. In their own time both men were underestimated, dismissed as arrogant, and faced skeptics and haters in their own nations—yet both magnificently rose to the central challenges of the twentieth century. Theirs was a kind of love story, with an emotional Churchill courting an elusive Roosevelt. The British prime minister, who rallied his nation in its darkest hour, standing alone against Adolf Hitler, was always somewhat insecure about his place in FDR’s affections—which was the way Roosevelt wanted it. A man of secrets, FDR liked to keep people off balance, including his wife, Eleanor, his White House aides—and Winston Churchill.

Confronting tyranny and terror, Roosevelt and Churchill built a victorious alliance amid cataclysmic events and occasionally conflicting interests. Franklin and Winston is also the story of their marriages and their families, two clans caught up in the most sweeping global conflict in history.

Meacham’s new sources—including unpublished letters of FDR’ s great secret love, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, the papers of Pamela Churchill Harriman, and interviews with the few surviving people who were in FDR and Churchill’s joint company—shed fresh light on the characters of both men as he engagingly chronicles the hours in which they decided the course of the struggle.

Hitler brought them together; later in the war, they drifted apart, but even in the autumn of their alliance, the pull of affection was always there. Charting the personal drama behind the discussions of strategy and statecraft, Meacham has written the definitive account of the most remarkable friendship of the modern age.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek (editor, Voices in Our Blood), delivers an eloquent, well-researched account of one of the 20th century's most vital friendships: that between FDR and Winston Churchill. Both men were privileged sons of wealth, and both had forebears (in Churchill's case, Leonard Jerome) prominent in New York society during the 19th century. Both enjoyed cocktails and a smoke. And both were committed to the Anglo-American alliance. Indeed, Roosevelt and Churchill each believed firmly that the "English-speaking peoples" represented the civilized world's first, best hope to counter and conquer the barbarism of the Axis. Meacham uses previously untapped archives and has interviewed surviving Roosevelt and Churchill staffers present at the great men's meetings in Washington, Hyde Park, Casablanca and Tehran. Thus he has considerable new ground to break, new anecdotes to offer and prescient observations to make. Throughout, Meacham highlights Roosevelt's and Churchill's shared backgrounds as sons of the ruling elite, their genuine, gregarious friendship, and their common worldview during staggeringly troubled times. To meet with Roosevelt, Churchill recalled years later, "with all his buoyant sparkle, his iridescence," was like "opening a bottle of champagne"-a bottle from which the tippling Churchill desperately needed a good long pull through 1940 and '41, as the Nazis savaged Europe and tortured British civilians with air attacks. One comes away from this account convinced of the "Great Personality" theory of history and gratified that Roosevelt and Churchill possessed the character that they did and came to power at a time when no other partnership would do.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

After their first meeting, in 1918, Roosevelt said that Churchill was "a stinker" Churchill didn't even remember Roosevelt. But by their next exchange, in 1939, Churchill was convinced that Britain's future depended on getting Roosevelt to like him. Meacham's engaging account argues that personal bonds between leaders are crucial to international politics. He draws heavily on diaries and letters to describe a complicated courtship and, at times, seems amazed at what Winston is willing to put up with from Franklin. Churchill paints a landscape for the President, sings for him, and agonizes when his notes go unanswered; Roosevelt teases him in front of Stalin, criticizes him to reporters, and eventually breaks his heart with a diverging vision of the postwar world. But Churchill never gives up, and he later recalled, "No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details


Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
(235)
4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinarily satisfying November 6, 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is a expert blend of biography and history, striking an admirable balance between the two genres. You really do get much of the best of both worlds here: the intimate views of carefully researched biography, and fresh perspectives on well-known world events (especially the decisions on the timing of D-Day and the meetings of the Big Three.)
It is particularly remarkable in that the personalities and accomplishments of either man, and the overwhelming events they faced, could have swamped the tale in any direction. Indeed, one has to admit that Churchill tends to dominate. But his written and oral volubility naturally had that effect, and since Roosevelt ultimately carried the military trumps, and was the more elusive and interesting character, he more than holds his own.
I especially appreciate Meacham's light-handed, even deployment of his research material. One never feels that he is relying exclusively on one or two sources, or just transcribing his whole notebook. Instead, the depth and shading in the portrayal of each man extends to their primary family and professional relationships as well: Harry Hopkins, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and both Randolph Churchills, are people I now want to know better.
Meacham is going for something deeper and more tender than portraiture, however - a study of friendship, perhaps the least understood human relationship. I had no idea how much time they spent together, and each of their meetings is chronicled day by day for details of their actual interactions, and their real feelings about each other. I think he gets pretty close to truth - a relationship full of humanity, respect, affection, and genuine love, consummated in truly extraordinary circumstances.
All this, and it's a sensible length. Definitive, deeply satisfying, and highly recommended.
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90 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Half history, half biography, all good! November 11, 2003
Format:Hardcover
Jon Meacham has tried to go where others have really not gone before - to explore the friendship between President Franklin Roosevelt and his counterpart, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his new book Franklin and Winston.
Meacham has done a great job of describing, in intimate detail, the relationship between these two men. I consider the book to be a true hybrid between a biography and a history because of the style of writing - intermixing details about the individual (the biography part) with situations in which the person played a role (the historical part). Meacham intertwines these two in remarkable fashion.
This is an important book that truly displays how Roosevelt and Churchill were not only political compadres, but were indeed friends. I greatly enjoyed how Meacham discussed, with such attention to details, those situations in which both men were involved and played a critical role. I also appreciated the way in which Meacham explained how those encounters bolstered the friendship between the men - and why.
Although the friendship was rocky at times, with Roosevelt bowing to political necessity in lieu of being true friends, there is no doubt in my mind, based on Meacham's book, that these two men were so much more than just political heavyweights - they were indeed friends.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Study of an Outstanding Friendship December 20, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I have read a number of biographies of FDR and Churchill as well as history books on WW II. I thought that I knew everything about both men.
Well, I didn't. It's not that Jon Meacham provides that much new material in this book--though there are some new letters and previously unreleased documents-it's that he molds what has been out there into a fascinating study of the personalities of the two men. I may not have learned new facts about these men but I gained greater insight into not only their friendship but also their marriages, their characters, and their lives from this study. Both men became more fully realized, more human, more alive in this book.
"Franklin and Winston" follows a simple, chronological structure. It begins with a phone call from Roosevelt to Churchill (who was not yet Prime Minister) at the onset of WW II in Europe; it ends for the most part with the death of Roosevelt and Churchill's inability to attend his funeral. In between, yes, you see all the major events of WW II on the European front. But you also see a Churchill trying to woo Roosevelt-and through his efforts, the neediness in his personality, the boy trying to please. You also realize the tremendous feeling that Churchill had for his American forebearers (his mother was American) and the sincere emotion that he was capable of even at the most difficult of times. With Roosevelt, you see the caginess of his personality, the boy who was the center of his parents' universe and now really was the center of the world. You see in greater depth the feeling that he did have for his wife Eleanor, even though he was spending time in his last days with his former love Lucy Rutherford. You see his ability to charm Churchill--and then turn off the charm.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How I Came to Love Two Legendary Humans December 18, 2005
Format:Hardcover
The news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor filled the airwaves while I sewed myself a dirndl skirt in the early winter of 1941. I was six weeks past my fourteenth birthday, and the war that was declared that day would coincide with my high school years, ending with the dropping of the atomic bomb just before I went off to the university.

Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his first term as president about the same time I turned four. For fourteen years he was central to the radio broadcasts, newspaper stories and newsreels that came to us daily.

Beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939, children were used to being admonished, "Be quiet! We want to hear the news!" Winston Churchill frequently figured in that news.

Reading Meacham's account of the remarkable friendship that grew up between the two leaders of the free and English-speaking world as they struggled with terrible losses of men and materiel and tragic defeats in battle and yet persisted on to win the war, I often could read only a few pages without pausing to wipe away tears and give myself a respite from the overwhelming pathos of their terrible responsibilities.

Nostalgia perhaps intensified my reaction, as old familiar terms like Tobruk, El Alamein, and Lend-Lease reverberated from my past, but surely no one could fail to be moved to tears by the closely personal, first-hand accounts of these two so humanly flawed but historically transcendent men.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
intimate portrayal of two of histories important heads of govt.
Published 14 days ago by George M. Radell
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good and broad view about 2 extraordinary world leaders during...
A very good and broad view about 2 extraordinary world leaders during the height of
their political lives. Enlightening from a world view as well.
Published 17 days ago by Leslie J. Heumann
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Bought this for a gift. The recipient liked it very much.
Published 1 month ago by D. Henley
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Astonishing Men
This is a fascinating portrait of two men most of us thought we knew. There is so much personal information about them and those close to them. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Angela Love
2.0 out of 5 stars The story could have been told just as effectively in ...
The story could have been told just as effectively in 200 less pages. Just because Meacham researched it, doesn't mean he had to include every detail.
Published 1 month ago by Tom Oleksy
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED this well written book
LOVED this well written book. It was riveting to read about their personal relationships. The author did a superb job in research. Sincerely, Edith Cummings
Published 2 months ago by Edith Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars Friendship with lasting results
The picture that is developed in your mind is beautiful. What great minds can accomplish when open up to others. Excellent read.
Published 2 months ago by JB Flora
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book available on this subject
One of the best books I have ever read, well written and thoroughly researched, you will read and refer to it many times
Published 2 months ago by Christopher Foley
5.0 out of 5 stars Franklin and Winston
Excellent work on the relationship between these two titans. Meacham writes well, although there is no new revelations. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ronald C. Woolsey
5.0 out of 5 stars inside view of FDR and Winston
This book is a wonderful way to learn about the men, their leadership styles, the benefits of an earlier age in communications and the real weight on their shoulders. Read more
Published 2 months ago by KWS
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More About the Author

Jon Meacham is the author, most recently, of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller that has been named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Seattle Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his bestselling 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston and American Gospel. Executive editor and executive vice president of Random House, Meacham is a contributing editor to Time magazine, a former editor of Newsweek, and has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. He is a regular contributor on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians, Meacham serves on the boards of the New-York Historical Society; the Churchill Centre; and of The McCallie School. He is a former trustee and Regent of The University of the South and has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and Trinity Church Wall Street. Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at McCallie and at The University of the South, where he was salutatorian and Phi Beta Kappa. He began his career as a reporter at The Chattanooga Times. He and his wife live with their three children in Nashville and in Sewanee.

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