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The Roosevelts: An American Saga
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2005
This book is by far one of the best sources on the Roosevelt family. The authour makes much of the family divisions, but weaves together a masterful portriat of the two sided Roosevelt clan. The "Oyster Bay" clan (T.R.) and the "Hyde Park" clan (FDR) You'll read about T.R's early life struggles, his warm relationship with his children, and his bravery. You'll read about Franklin and Eleanor's difficult childhoods and marriage, Franklin's infidelties, Eleanor's possible lesbianism and anti-semitisim and Alice Roosevelt Longworth's famously sharp tounge. This book is hard to put down, a great read!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Peter Collier's The Roosevelt's: An American Saga, is a fascinating look at this famous family. Most people have a general knowledge of presidents Theodore Roosevelt (TR) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), but they may not be aware of the extended family history.

The saga of the Roosevelt's in America begins with the arrival of Claes Martenszen van Rosenvelt in the 1600's. But this story really belongs to TR and FDR. The two presidents were 5th cousins, and came from different branches of this prolific family. TR was part of the Oyster Bay clan, while FDR came from the Hyde Park branch. Their families weren't particularly close, although they did move in the same New York social circles. They even pronounced their names differently ("Roos-e-velt" vs. "Rose-e-velt").

TR blazed a political path as he became governor of New York, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, vice president, and then president. TR wanted his son to continue his political trailblazing, but the young Teddy Jr. was unable to do so. Along came FDR and while he belonged to a different political party, he followed TR's example almost to the letter (governor of New York, Assistant Naval Secretary and then president). But instead of bringing the families closer together, it actually drove a wedge between them. FDR was always considered a lightweight by the Oyster Bay side. Now he was looked upon as a traitor and a usurper. Some of the Oyster Bay Roosevelt's even campaigned against FDR. Eleanor Roosevelt (an Oyster Bay Roosevelt who married her Hyde Park cousin) was a bridge between the two groups, but even that wasn't always enough. While everyone tried to remain civil, it wasn't always possible. For a time, Alice Longworth (TR's oldest daughter) was banned from the White House because of her vitriolic tongue, and constant snide remarks and mimicking of Eleanor.

While the Roosevelt's had great personal successes, they also suffered their share of tragedies. Alcoholism ran in the Oyster Bay side, and Elliott Roosevelt (TR's brother and Eleanor's father) died at the age of 34 from the disease. Eleanor's brother, Hall, also met an early death from alcoholism. TR's youngest son, Quentin, was killed in World War II. Another son, Kermit, committed suicide in 1943, and his son Dirck, also killed himself ten years later. A son-in-law and daughter-in-law of FDR also took their own lives. It is often very difficult being the children of strong, dynamic and famous men, and Collier relates how hard it was for the Roosevelt children and grandchildren to live in the shadows of these great men. TR's children always strived to measure up to their Rough Rider father, but without great success. FDR's children were an undisciplined, spoiled and dysfunctional group, and had 19 marriages between the five of them. None of the children or grandchildren in the two groups was able to carry on the political legacy left by their fathers.

I truly enjoyed The Roosevelt's as it provides much little known information about this important family. Collier also shows that the story doesn't end with TR and FDR after all, although the Roosevelt's on the world stage stopped with the death of Eleanor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
As a U.S. History teacher I often get this question when my classes reach the early twentieth century: "How are Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt related - were they brothers, or father-and-son"? When I point out that they were distant cousins, the students are amazed, and I suspect that many Americans with only a minimum knowledge of history would be, too. As this excellent book by Peter Collier and David Horowitz points out, there were two distinct branches of the Roosevelt family. One branch became Republicans and settled into the wealthy neighborhoods of Manhattan and Oyster Bay, on Long Island; while the other branch became Democrats and lived on a huge, English-style estate along the Hudson River in upstate New York. Although the two branches of this Dutch-descended family got along fairly well in the nineteenth century, in the early twentieth century a venomous feud erupted between the children of Theodore Roosevelt and their distant yet ambitious cousin, Franklin, and his revenge-minded wife, Eleanor. The first part of this book focuses on the rise of Theodore Roosevelt to fame and power in politics. In many ways "TR" represented the best of the American past - he was young (at 42 the youngest ever to become President), dynamic, and progressive. His large brood of children were no less energetic and flamboyant (in particular his eldest child Alice, who shocked polite society by smoking in public and making "unladylike" comments - Theodore himself said that he could "be President or control Alice, I cannot possibly do both"). As their beloved father grew older and his political star began to wane after 1909, his children assumed that the mantle of family and national leadership would be passed on to his oldest sons, especially Theodore, Jr. But they soon discovered a "nemesis" - Franklin D. Roosevelt of the Democratic Hudson River Roosevelts, became an assistant to President Woodrow Wilson and began manuevering to oust Theodore's children from the throne. He was assisted by his wife Eleanor, who was the daughter of Theodore's tragic brother Elliot. Unable to keep up with his wildly successful older brother, Elliot simply gave up and fell into a life of drinking, gambling, and womanizing and died at an early age. Young Eleanor always blamed the Oyster Bay Republican Roosevelts for "destroying" her adored father, and she vowed revenge. In the 1920's she derailed Theodore, Jr's attempts to become Governor of New York by smearing him with a political scandal, thus ending his political career and earning Eleanor the embittered ridicule of Alice, who thereafter often enjoyed making fun of Eleanor's buck teeth and nasal accent for her dinner guests. (She also took numerous verbal swipes at her cousin - after hearing that Franklin was having an extramarital affair, Alice snorted "He deserves to - he's married to Eleanor"). The second half of the book describes the rise to power and Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the career of his wife Eleanor, and the many problems and failures of their children - largely brought on, Collier and Horowitz argue, by the neglect of their famous parents. This family feud doesn't really end until decades after Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in 1945, and both branches of the family have left politics for the quieter pursuits of business. My only disappointment with this book is that it skims over many of the great accomplishments of both Roosevelt Presidents - this book is NOT a comprehensive history of their Presidencies! However, it is an extremely well-written and engrossing account of the rise and fall of two branches of one of America's greatest families.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 1997
What Collier and Horowitz do in this book is weave a tale not of two seperate Roosevelt clans vying for political power, but of the succession of one branch into prominence following the decay of the other. The intriguing side-plots involving the two families reads like a royal family of America. FDR and Teddy are not the only Roosevelt's analyzed here, their children and their remarkable (and sometimes scandalous) lives are exposed as well. A well researched book that illuminates a historical American political dynasty
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2011
I'm not an expert, but I've always been interested in history. Before reading this book, I had made several visits to Oyster Bay, NY (the home of Teddy Roosevelt) and Hyde Park, NY (the home of FDR). I vaguely knew that Teddy was Eleanor Roosevelt's uncle and that Eleanor married her cousin--FDR. But I didn't know that Teddy and FDR were actually fifth cousins, or that Eleanor's father was Teddy's younger (by two years) brother, Elliott. Elliott's wife tragically died young. Elliott, an alcoholic, passed away two years after his wife, leaving two orphaned children--one of whom was Eleanor Roosevelt, the future First Lady.

I also never knew about the 100-year-old feud between the two sides of the family. Teddy Roosevelt was the quintessential all-American hero, and it was always assumed that his oldest son, Teddy Jr., would follow his father into politics. But somewhat surprisingly, cousin Franklin, although crippled by polio, went on to become our only four-term President, and the Oyster Bay clan declined in influence. Unfortunately, none of the younger family members could live up to either Teddy Sr. or FDR.

This is the story of the entire Roosevelt clan over a 100-year period--siblings, children, wives, husbands, neices, nephews, grandchildren--not just Teddy Sr. or FDR. So, there are a lot of people to keep track of. Certain first names--like Anna, Eleanor, Theodore--were given again and again to different generations of the family, and I found myself frequently consulting the family tree at the beginning of the book to keep everyone straight! Also, I did find a couple of errors with ages and dates, which should have been caught in fact-checking. And the book lags a bit in the middle, and again at the end (when the focus is off Teddy Sr. and FDR). It's also a little dry at times. But all in all, this is a fabulously researched book. If you like American history, I think you'll really enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2009
Peter Collier's The Roosevelts: An American Saga (Simon & Schuster, 1995) is primarily about the personal lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt and their families, as well as the great animosity that developed between the two branches of the family. Much of what I had read previously about the two Roosevelts focused on their time as president. This book is all about their families - their home lives, the children and their relationships with their parents and each other.

The contrast between the two families is a major theme of the book. It gave me an even greater respect for the first President Roosevelt, the way he and Edith raised their children and the lasting impact of their love and guidance. But it made me feel sorry for Franklin and Eleanor, and moreso for their children. Even though the families are almost contemporaries (just one generation apart, Theodore's children and Franklin and Eleanor are the same generation), Franklin's family seemed so much more "modern," illustrating all the problems we think about in families today - divorce, absentee parenting, conflict between parents and between siblings. I know these problems are not new (and not completely absent from Theodore's descendants either), but the difference between the two families seems to reflect the great change in society following the First World War on which so many writers of the time comment.

Although most readers (and most historians) are primarily interested in the two presidents and Eleanor, the lives of their children also tell important stories of America and the world during the two World Wars and after. Several of the children and grandchildren achieved significant accomplishments in their own right and deserve recognition and remembrance, although none reached the height of their famous fathers. Their lives illustrate the struggles of the children of famous lineage. How can they carry on the family name yet carve out some identity of their own? Who will be the standard bearer for the next generation? Are they trying to live up to their famous name or are they trying to trade off of it? It is in part around these questions that the feud between the Oyster Bay Roosevelts (Theodore's descendents) and the Hyde Park Roosevelts (Franklin and Eleanor) erupts into open conflict, waged in both political and personal arenas.

For many people like me who may feel familiar with the two Presidents but are fuzzy on how they were connected, this book will fill in the gaps. But more than that, it tells a fascinating American story through two branches of one family, leaders of their nation through war and peace but often at war with each other as well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 2, 2001
...I don't regret buying this book. It was informative read about Teddy and Franklin Roosevelts and their families as well as how their destinies crossed paths in the political world. It is also a glimpse of how life was in the early 1900s ~~ a fascinating glimspe of the world and politics then. Back then, it seems that everyone was interested in politics ~~ not just for their own personal gains, but because it meant something to them.
It is also an interesting read about the Roosevelt children ~~ how Teddy's kids differ from Franklin's children. They are not the main characters in the book ~~ but they are written about quite extensively as well. The readers also could feel the impact of the wives throughout the book.
Collier writes with a flair ~~ he doesn't write just of historical facts, but also of some common knowledge and with a flair. He made this biography interesting ~~ unlike some of his peers who writes with a dull pen. By the time I finished reading this book, I was impressed at how little I knew of the Roosevelts when I picked it up ~~ and how little I knew of the impacts their decisions were felt throughout society and time itself. And now that I know, I feel I had a small glimpse in politics then, and of their lives as presidents and as ordinary men. Only, those two were never meant to be ordinary ~~ fate decrees otherwise. Fortunately for us Americans.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2002
There is a new book on them every year. This work includes Theodore sr., Bamie, the Eliots, Quentin, Kermit, Anna & all the rest. This is not American history. It is family history: one family two clans, Hyde Park & Oyster Bay. Their orgins from the 17th century are discussed briefly including the split. Then it proceeds with Teddy's childhood. He was sickly, almost dying several times, except for his father Theodore sr. He was a great man & loving father. He undoubtedly made Teddy the man he was to become. He was worthy of the veneration TR carried for him all his life. Theodore sr. died early. So did Eliot "the golden boy" TR's brother & Eleanor's father. The impact that Eliot had on his daughter was huge & mostly negative.
Being a son of TR was tough. He & wife Edith were good, attentive, loving parents. They had four sons, all filled with a passion to measure up to TR. It wasn't enough to enlist in World War I but to see action & if possible get wounded. Talk about pressure! TR probably didn't see things in such a harsh light but the sons felt this was the way to please their father. It killed the youngest son, Quentin. Of course they never rose to TR's heights. But a cousin did: Franklin Delano. His life started out differently with an older father he didn't know & a domineering mother. He studiously followed TR's path: state legislator, under Secretary of the Navy & govenor of New York. As good parents that TR & Edith were FDR & Eleanor were terrible & neglectful. The way their children turned out was somewaht predictable, racking up 15 divorces amongst them. The Roosevelts rank up there with the Adams, Kennedys & Bushes(?) as great American political families. This was from the the audio version & throughly enjoyable.
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on January 6, 2000
The Roosevelt family is, along with the Kennedy family and the Adams clan, one of the three most extraordinary families America ever produced. It produced two of America's greatest Presidents- Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt -and some of its most colorful personalities. In the end the family disappeared from the public eye, but its legacy remains and their story is the subject of Peter Collier and David Horowitz The Roosevelts.
The Oyster Bay Roosevelts of TR and the Hyde Park Roosevelts of FDR are the focus of Collier and Horowitz book. Both families produced a President, and neither family succeeded in expanding this initial success into a political dynasty. Horowitz and Collier get the story of both families. The interaction between the two in the years after TR's death is of particular interest. The resentment TR's arrogant offspring feel when FDR, their hated cousin, becomes President and relegates the family to obscurity is a story usually ignored.
On the balance, a pretty darn good book.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2006
Peter Collier's book is breathtaking in scope, covering not only presidents Theodore and Franklin but giving detailed biographies of forebears and children. The lively prose describes the times and society in which the competing branches of the Roosevelt family existed, with the balance of power moving from Oyster Bay to Hyde Park as Great War shifts to Depression.

As a chronicle of these times, it's a fantastic book. Unfortunately, as a balanced piece of work it is sadly lacking. The author's feet are placed firmly in Oyster Bay - he likes Theodore and his family, but lavishes only criticism on FDR and his. Not knowing a great deal about the private lives of either family, I was prepared to accept his judgement of FDR as a weak, mother-dominated flip-flopper and Eleanore as an emotionally needy hypocritical shrew with naive communist leanings at first.

However, on reflection, the author's undisguised comtempt for the Wilson administration, his uncritical acceptance of the pro-war movement before WWI and his belittling of the importance of the New Deal lead me to feel there was more than impartial biography going on here. Especially when one compares the author's critical analysis of Franklin's policies, to his disingenuous skipping-over of Theodore's blatant war-mongering in Central America, as a means of furthering his career as under secretary to the navy. The author refuses to give credit to FDR even for his achievements within the first 100 days - grudgingly commenting that these ideas had been stolen from Theodore.

Having finished the book, I now wonder whether I have read a biography or a political tract. While The Roosevelts is an interesting read, it is fatally undermined by my suspicion that it conceals an agenda to assassinate the character and achievements of FDR, and bolster the reputation of America's first great imperialist President.

In the current right-wing political climate of the USA, this is very much a book of its time - unforgiveable in any serious historical work.
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