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A Love Affair That Impacted History!
on June 8, 2003
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."