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Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship Hardcover – October 14, 2003

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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505003
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (245 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

137 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Mark Dirksen on 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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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on 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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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By crazyforgems on 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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Carson on 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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