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T.R.: The Last Romantic Paperback – September 11, 1998
History To Repeat & Some To Not
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Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I had read Henry Pringle's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of TR written in 1931 and found it to be dated both in writing style and historical interpretation. Brands's 1990's update reveals little in the way of new data about this most interesting American, but it certainly brought to life in vivid detail a grand character the likes of which we shall not see again.
Brands correctly compared TR's successful effort to construct the Panama Canal to JFK's push to send a man to the moon. Historians can argue about which has had the more lasting practical impact. In the diplomatic game of hawks and doves, Roosevelt was the leading raptor of his generation. While president, TR stared down German Kaiser Wilhelm in a shrewd reassertion of the Monroe Doctrine during a crisis involving Venezuela. One wonders whether his "big stick" approach to international affairs and the particular influence he had on Germany might have changed the course of world history had he been elected in 1912, when he ran as a Progressive.
As Brands points out, Roosevelt himself was a historian of some note and served as President of the American Historical Association after leaving the presidency. The author quotes from a keynote address Roosevelt gave to one of the Association's meetings in which TR advocated for a romantic interpretation of history focussing on the qualities he idealized: principled bravery, heroism and moral certitude. Brands's account of TR's life pays homage to this approach, but is nevertheless even-handed. Roosevelt's personality eventually verged on being megalomaniacal; still, the story of the sickly, asmatic child molding himself through sheer determination into the great man he became is truly inspirational.
I found this book a pretty quick read despite it being over 800 pages.
I cannot speak highly enough of this book. The meticulous research and the flowing style of narrative make the biography both historically accurate and wonderfully entertaining. I felt at times that I was reading a novel. I was daunted a bit at first by the sheer size of the tome, but once my nose was in it I found it difficult to put down. One of the things that make this book different than the run of the mill biography is the sources the author used. He draws upon not only ommonly available documentation, but also upon personal letters to and from Roosevelt and his family, associates, cabinet members, and others. Also, the collection of photographs is in chronological order, which allows you to get a photographic history as well. The only instructive criticism I would give is that there is possibly a little too much psychoanalysis from the author on some of Roosevelt's motives. This should in no way discourage anyone from reading this gem of a book. My highest regards and kudos goes to Mr. Brands for a most excellent contribution to my library.
Those criticisms aside, "The Last Romantic" works as a consitently entertaining and colorful character study. And that may very well have been Brands intention. If so, then he has succeeded marvelously so.
Roosevelt was many,many things: scientist, soldier, rancher, philosopher, statesman, traveller and historian (this is just an abbreviated list) besides a president who put the "conserve" in conservative; and Brands may be his biggest fan. Sharing Brands' passion for TR going into this book, I had my admiration confirmed.
All in all, this book is highly reccomended not so much as historical scholarship, but rather as a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man.
Brands is sympathetic, but even-handed in his assessments of Roosevelt's' strengths and faults. One easily accepts Brands premise that much of Roosevelt's life was spent over-compensating for his early frail health and is as amused as the author clearly is at Roosevelt's occasional macho antics.
Brands frequently quotes Roosevelt to good effect and provides some historical background. However, I would have liked to see more of a historical overview during T.R.'s two terms in office as President and especially his run for a third term at the head of the "Bull Moose" Progressive Party. This critical period of T.R. (and the Republican Party's) life does not come across in enough detail or context.
Overall, unless you're a T.R. buff or a die hard biography fan, I'd give this 800+ page book a pass. Much better to read his truly excellent biography of Ben Franklin, The First American.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent book. I love the way H. W. Brands writes. He holds my interest. This book is hard to put down.Published 13 days ago by J. Kevin McCulloch
Fantastic read. Before reading this one, I read Brands' FDR (Pulitzer Prize finalist) book. I am amazed this one was not a Pulitzer Prize finalist ! It is so well written. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mimi Coffey
Received on time - excellent condition. Book is interesting and hard to put downPublished 6 months ago by Judith K
Fast delivery, exactly as described. Wonderful addition to my library.Published 6 months ago by Dr. Mary E. Edgecomb
There are several volumes out there on Theodore Roosevelt, and this is, in my estimation, the best single-volume introduction to our twenty sixth president (the fact that it was... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kevin
I majored in American History in college and I had Brands as a professor. Best history professor I had. I get all his books. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Sticks
I am now currently half way through this book. I can't say how excellent it has been so far. Mr. Brands goes into great detail as to the deep parts of the life of TR. Read morePublished 12 months ago by ctmb374