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Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 31, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A truly pleasurable new book ... The dual biography manages to give the reader what he or she wants—the juicy details of the spat—while simultaneously weaving the much bigger story of these dynamic women’s impact in a time when having an impact as a woman was far from easy ... Peyser and Dwyer’s tale is truly hard to put down." —The Daily Beast

"[R]ipping but poignant... [T]his voume reminds us just how punishing life in a presidential family can be." —TIME

"With aplomb, stylish prose and smart analysis, [Peyser and Dwyer] synthesize their sources smoothly into an entertaining and educational book. And by vividly blending the personal and the political, Peyser and Dwyer tell the cousins’ story with insight, humor, empathy and wisdom. In so doing, they call on the best qualities of their subjects to produce a welcome and absorbing addition to the ever-growing canon of Rooseveltiana." —Richmond Times-Dispatch

"[C]lever, absorbing ... Peyser and Dwyer wisely avoid paying too much attention to the old theory that Alice was jealous of Eleanor for capturing Franklin, whom she wanted for herself. What Alice mostly felt was wild exasperation over the way political fate and circumstance set Franklin up as her father’s wrongful heir ... [E]ntertaining and often shrewd." —The Washington Post

"[T]his new book focuses on a relationship that changed radically as these two women, both born in 1884, grew up and assumed their roles as leading figures in their respective political parties ... Both grab our sympathy as young women ... but in adulthood their differences couldn’t be starker." —The Boston Globe

"[A] masterful chronicle of their lives and times." —The Washington Times

"Hissing Cousins unravels the Machiavellian question that would haunt both women in their path to power: is it better to be clever, or is it better to be good? ... [T]he one thing Alice and Eleanor certainly got out of their enmity was an unwavering belief in their own selves ... It turns out that even among women, a little healthy competition is a good thing." —The Guardian

"This is a brilliant idea for a book, brilliantly executed. With verve and insight, Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have written a powerful and entertaining portrait of an important and overlooked American relationship. By charting the turbulent connection between Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Peyser and Dwyer take us inside a momentous family during momentous hours. A terrific read!" —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

"Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have hit upon a most ingenious angle on the endlessly revelatory Roosevelt family, yielding a vivid, occasionally mind-boggling view of the conflicting impulses in our national character. Their portrait of these first cousins at odds is one of the most entertaining accounts of serious history I’ve read, eliciting laughter, groans and ultimately a certain panoramic comprehension." —Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution

"Hissing Cousins is just delicious—sharp, touching, funny, and wise. Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have brought to life a pair of the great women of the twentieth century, in all their human flaws and glory." —Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World

"This is the beautifully-rendered and absorbing story of the seventy-year family rivalry between two of the most compelling women of the twentieth century—one Democrat, one Republican, both fascinating." —Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

"For much of the twentieth century Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Longworth defined what it meant to be an influential woman in politics, although their personalities and styles could not have been more different. This part of the grand Roosevelt family saga has rarely been told, and never better." —H. W. Brands, author of Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"A charming account of the fascinating relationship between two indomitable women of the 20th Century: Mrs, Democrat and Mrs. Republican." —Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita, UCLA

"Peyser and Dwyer's detailed and witty double biography is hard to put down, a fascinating look at an era and two exceptionally strong, intelligent women." —Booklist, starred

"[A] compelling drama dimmed by the fog of time. The research is thorough and the prose is stylishly authoritative."The Christian Science Monitor

"[M]anages to encapsulate the sweeping saga of the Roosevelt family within its covers in a clear and readable fashion." —Chicago Tribune

"[D]elightfully juicy ... The cousins’ rivalry was well known in its day ... but this is the first account that gets into the nasty details. It’s an enormously entertaining portrait, particularly of the acid­-tongued Alice, who finally — in this book — manages to steal back the show." —Columbia Magazine

"Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have a can’t-miss subject on their hands, and they bring the reader along for an exhilarating ride."BookPage

"An entertaining retelling of a forgotten story, written for political junkies who enjoy the naughty and the nice." —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Marc Peyser is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Life, Vogue, Time, the Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and the Best Business Writing 2003. He has also been an editor at Newsweek, Budget Travel, All You, and Money magazines.

Timothy Dwyer was raised on Long Island's Eaton's Neck, swimming distance from Theodore Roosevelt's homestead at Sagamore Hill. He studied history and politics at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. His work has appeared in Time, Washingtonian, and TheAtlantic.com. He is the chief executive officer of The School Choice Group, an education advisory company.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (March 31, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385536011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385536011
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a book that could benefit from either more grueling research by the authors, or a more discerning editor. I am in the early chapters & already find Lady Nancy Astor (1879-1964) mistakenly identified as the Astor who defined "New York's Four Hundred" in the 1880s & 1890s (it was in fact Caroline Schermerhorn Astor) & Franklin Roosevelt excitedly writing to his parents in 1902 about a social event he attended in Washington DC...when his father died in 1900. While it's an engaging enough read, my alert is up & I feel I can't trust the research...bad in a book like this that veers all too close to gossip rather than biography.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer tell the story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth (in one of the better titled books) - cousins and both residents at one time in the White House. Comparisons are made continuously through the pages rather than in separate chapters. One can get a smooth accounting of these two women by this method. We read of their upbringing, one from the Oyster Bay Roosevelts and one from the Hyde Park side of the family dynasty.

Thankfully there is a family tree in the beginning to help sort out the numerous members of these relatives. The family tree is complicated and at times during reading it is hard to distinguish who is who because of the tendency of many of them having the same name. The insertion of nicknames for various members is not always made clear and can lead to some confusion and the need to turn back to discern which family member is the subject.
Footnotes are an added bonus that explain political, world or familial background. When money is mentioned, it is translated into 2015 dollar worth, which also adds to an understanding.

The commentaries between Alice and Eleanor are good. We read excerpts from diaries, letters, public statements and private conversations. Their fluctuating moods and relationships with each other, members of the family and friends are well explained and detailed.

This is not a history of world events. Little is mentioned of even WWII. Instead the focus is on the two women themselves and how they dealt with their lives and those around them. What happens in the wider spectrum of world events is secondary.
This is a good book for those who wish to learn more about a family surrounded by politics, society, life in Washington and of course what Eleanor and Alice were really like as individuals.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The style of writing here is unique. The authors have entwined both Alice Roosevelt Longworth's life with that of Eleanor Roosevelt, paternal cousins born in 1884. As young girls they often got together to spend time together, but once Alice's father Teddy remarried, she became a feisty, outspoken women always wanting and needing attention. That perhaps comes from having her father put her in care of her aunt to raise her.

These women truly were quite opposites in many ways, yet sharing many things as well. Alice became a staunch Republican; Eleanor remained a fierce Democrat. Both seemed to have had romantic interests in Franklin D, which of course Eleanor had won. Both ended up as political wives early in their marriages, but Alice was more about fame and fortune while Eleanor always had a concern for the poorer people in society. It's easy to take sides with Eleanor, because Alice's big fame was being the attractive daughter of a popular president. Both broke taboos in their own right; one politically and the other socially.

This is not a book about the presidents Teddy and Franklin D Roosevelt, and the authors did a great job leaving the political history of the world wars out of this. The one big mention is the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s, in which Archie Roosevelt was involved. Anything that involved a Roosevelt from Alice's side brought out the warrior in her.

So when did the cousins start hissing? It seems to have started in the 1920s, with Teddy now dead and Franklin D vying for New York State governor and later presidency. Once FDR was stricken with polio, the feud began in earnest. Alice is not portrayed here very well, she being a vindictive, jealous woman with anger while Eleanor became more assertive and independent at the same time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subtitle "the untold story . . ." begs some incredulity, since both Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt have had many biographers, not to mention written their own memoirs, while during their lifetimes both lived in the white heat of publicity for years at a time. Nevertheless it's an apt description, for Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have shed new light on both women in this joint biography which deserves a place on your shelves alongside Joseph P. Lash's Eleanor and Franklin and Edmund Morris's three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1884, the year Alice and Eleanor Roosevelt were born, their family already ranked among the grandest of American bloodlines. Although they were wealthy and well connected their lives were tinged with sorrow: Alice's mother died shortly after her birth, while Eleanor's father's emotional problems and addictions led to the failure of his marriage and his early death. Our mental images of the two cousins in their childhood and teenage years depict Alice as the beautiful and self-confident Presidential daughter and Eleanor as a rather mousy do-gooder. The real story is more complex: Alice desperately needed her father's approval and resented Eleanor, who sometimes seemed to be closer to Theodore Roosevelt's idea of the perfect daughter. Both married men who seemed set for brilliant political futures and both were disappointed when their husbands proved unfaithful. Eventually both suffered setbacks: Alice's husband losing political power and Eleanor's losing his physical health. Eleanor, of course, helped revive her husband's career and saw him elected President four times, allowing her to make the position of First Lady more powerful than ever before.
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