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  • Lucy
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This is the fictional account of a very real love affair, told by "the other woman." The relationship, by itself was not an uncommon one, although the characters could have been created by Edith Wharton. They are east coast, upper-class, elite; patricians to-the-manor-born. It is really not an epic love story like that of Josephine and Napoleon, or Cleopatra and Antony, or even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Fortunately, for history's sake, no one gave up a throne...or the presidency for this love. The three people who comprise the love triangle, however, are of epic proportion - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lucy Mercer. And each of these people, as individuals, and in their relationship to one another, had a major role to play in the course of world events, from the time that Lucy met Franklin and Eleanor, just before World War I, through the Great Depression, until the end of Franklin's life, right before the end of World War II.
While reading this novel, I initially thought it to be short on substance - more than fluff, but lacking in weight - perhaps it needed more historical detail. But after reading the book, I was left with a feeling of deep sadness at the poignancy of the love that existed between Lucy and Franklin, and between Eleanor and Franklin. Ellen Feldman has given us Lucy's voice, a woman's voice from a time long ago, (for some reason I remember Lily Bart from Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth"). And that voice tells us the history of a love which is the center of her life - so that the history of the world becomes peripheral. And that one historical viewpoint becomes unique and compelling.
I admire Ms. Feldmans work tremendously. I also admire her courage in writing a historical novel of merit about such famous, public figures. So much has been written about them already - yet few have touched on this subject. Ms. Feldman writes beautifully, with a quiet passion and a certain delicacy. Her characters are well drawn and true.
There is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt at the end of the book that moved me very much. She says, "[If you] cannot meet the need of someone whom [you] dearly love...you must learn to allow someone else to meet the need, without bitterness or envy, and accept it."
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on May 23, 2003
I've been an avid reader of historical novels for the past forty years, and consider Ellen Feldman's Lucy one of the best. It is an informative, entertaining and richly detailed depiction of the love affair that Franklin D. Roosevelt had with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer. It is also a vivid and accurate account of that crucial period in world history between both world wars, and WWII itself. It takes courage for a novelist to write a book narrated by a historical figure, and Feldman does so with masterful restraint, thus creating a realistic and convincing portrait. Lucy comes across as a sensitive and caring woman willing to make any sacrifice for the man she loves, a man who returns her love, and realizes in the end that had Franklin left his wife for her the scandal would have ruined him, and history as we know it would be another story. FDR himself emerges as the giant he was, but susceptible to the passions that also made him human. And Eleanor bears it all with the type of stoical pride, dignity, and wit that made her the great woman she was. I once shook her hand, and still feel her warmth in my palm. It's an important story unknown to many. It's great to know, and recall, that in those pre-paparazzi, pre-TV, pre-tabloid bilge, pre-Ken Star, pre-base politician days people still respected the office of the presidency and didn't stoop to any low level just to make a few bucks, ruin a career, and embarrass a nation. Overall, this is a wonderful novel by the underrated Ms. Feldman. One can only hope she continues to write such fine narratives.
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on January 8, 2004
I have always been intrigued with the story of the romanance between FDR and Lucy Mercer. When I ran across this book at a local book store I bought it immediately and moved it ahead of other things that I planned to read. The story is romantic and touching. It gives a different view of Frankling and Eleanor and it shows how history could have so easily have been changed. For those interested in FDR and Eleanor its an interesting read. For those who are romantics at heart, its a warm and beautiful story about love and its lasting endurance.
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VINE VOICEon August 13, 2006
This was a really good read. A historical fiction novel based on fact. I had no idea that Franklin D. Roosevelt had an affair, but the way Ms. Feldman tells it, it's not trashy or disgraceful. Franklin and Lucy Mercer are two people who truly loved each other, but given the time period, just could not be together.

Lucy Mercer met Franklin when she became his wife Eleanore's personal secretary in 1914. At this time Franklin was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, years away from the presidency. The two didn't begin their love affair until 1916, and it lasted for two years. But in 1918, upon returning from an overseas trip to see how WWI soldiers were faring, Eleanor was unpacking Franklin's bag when she discovered a stack of love letters from Lucy, tied together with a velvet ribbon.

Eleanor offered Franklin his freedom by getting a divorce (which was almost unheard of in 1918) so he could marry Lucy. He was planning to do just that, but his personal advisers got to him, and let him know that if he married Lucy Mercer, his shot for the presidency was gone. Divorce had never been in the white house, and the country certainly wouldn't elect a man who abandoned his wife and 5 children for his mistress.

In the end, his dream of becoming President won out, and Lucy and Franklin didn't see each other for over 20 years. But in 1940 they reconnected, and in 1941, Lucy (who's husband had suffered a stroke, and was confined to a wheelchair) began seeing the President under the false Secret Service name of Ms. Johnson. Lucy continued to see Franklin every opportunity she could until his death in April, 1945 at Warm Springs, which she was there for.

Ms. Feldman has done a fantastic job of portraying the love these two shared, while also showing the strength and unbreakable spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. I absolutely recommend this book. If you know nothing of this beautiful love story then definitely pick this up. One things for sure though, I'll never look at President Franklin D. Roosevelt the same way again!
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on February 23, 2003
Written in the first person of Lucy, the book instantly immerses you into the styles, the tastes, the emotion of the historic triangle. No moral judgements are made, only the depiction and constancy to the voice of each of the characters. The prose reads like silk, the pace gallops, and the story unfolds as if for the first time. To read and re-read.
Marion Liniado
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on November 10, 2013
This book has a sort of superficial feel about it. Of course it may be that I have read exhaustively about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt so that the material is too familiar. I do think that some artistic license has been taken. In other words, some things just made up. But, that is to be expected in a work of fiction written years after the fact. One never really feels that they are being given an explanation as to why a young woman of such good upbringing and in the time in which she lived would ever even consider having an affair with a married man. Especially with the husband of a woman who had been good to her, given her a good job when she needed one badly and included her in many family and social occasions. Not to even mention that this man had 5 children that he'd be leaving fatherless. It just doesn't make her a very admirable character. She doesn't seem to have even considered what she was doing or the consequences. A young woman of good character would have simply left their employment as soon as she realized she was in real trouble emotionally. Instead, Lucy just comes across as a "I want it and I want it now and who cares who gets hurt" type of person. It's been my experience that if a woman wants to convey to a man that she is "all business" and she doesn't mean "funny business" that his attentions will be forced to turn elsewhere. She took advantage of the fact that she was right there under his nose all the time and encouraged his interest. She invited what happened to happen. It doesn't paint Roosevelt in a very good light that he would lie and say it was Eleanor's fault that he couldn't get a divorce. He must have developed all his character later after he contracted polio and began to see "how the other half lives". I believe that he didn't actually begin to grow up till he was stricken. Anyway, we all know how it turned out. He was an excellent president, definitely what the country needed at the time. I guess all he experienced is what formed him into the man he became.I
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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2013
Well, I didn't quite warm up to telling the story from the point of view of Lucy because that made for too much interior dialogue when historically we know very little about Lucy Mercer. She was the most discreet mistress ever. And it is hard to believe with her breeding and the culture of the time that she would actually have had sex with a married man. Maybe they didn't. Based on one son's memoir, there's an implication that FDR drove her down to Virginia Beach for a liaison, and what might have happened is not imagined here, just that they went there. Based on historical records of where FDR was and what he was doing at various times, and whether or not Lucy was there, the author is able to weave her in and out of the story, but since we know so little about Lucy in real life, we don't learn a whole lot more here. I was surprised to find her sister committed suicide and couldn't find that anywhere in Wikipedia, so that must have come from a family source. Still, it was an okay read.
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on September 29, 2005
This book was well researched. By adding to the bones of historical facts, Ellen Feldman fleshed out the story to convert it into a novel. It helps to understand the whole background of these fascinating principals. Perhaps it was because I had just revisited FDR's Hyde Park Home and library this past spring,that this book had such deep resonance. In this era when the media knows everything and tells everything about the president, this relationship would never have come to fruition. Across the backdrop of the World Wars, Lucy gives a love story which is never smarmy. She does not whine,or complain, but frankly states, how her relationship with Franklin endured over the years,against a turbulent time in our history. Owing to her support, she gave Franklin strength which he never could tap into through his marriage to Eleanor. As no one could ever know what transpired during her visits with Franklin in the White House and at Warm Springs.........Ms. Feldman's background as an historian lends credibility to what really may have been. I didn't want to finish the book, as I knew how it would end.
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on March 30, 2003
This book was wonderful. It kept my attention throughtout the story and made you wish for more. It made FDR seem like a real person with real feelings. I also become curious about Eleanor and am now reading a biography about her. This is wonderful!
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on March 10, 2006
I really enjoyed "Lucy", a novel about the romance between FDR and his secretary Lucy. It is strongly based on historical fact without feeling overbearingly scholarly. It gave me a strong sense of the people behind the facts.

I admired how well the author captured the romance while also strongly respecting Elenanor, FDR's wife.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone even familiar with FDR and who wants to delve behind the scenes of history.
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