From Publishers Weekly
senior editor Alter attempts to explore FDR's famous first "hundred days" in office, when the president laid the foundation for national recovery from the Great Depression. Eventually, Alter succeeds in providing a brief consideration of those key months. But exposition dominates: the early chapters recite Roosevelt's biography up until his White House candidacy (the well-known tale of privilege, marriage, adultery and polio). Then Alter chronicles the 1932 election and explores the postelection transition. Only about 130 pages deal with the 100 days commencing March , 1933, that the title calls FDR's "defining moment." Alter attaches much weight to a few throwaway phrases in a thrown-away draft of an early presidential speech—one that could, through a particular set of glasses, appear to show FDR giving serious consideration to adopting martial law in response to the monetary crisis. Despite this, Alter goes on to document FDR's early programs, pronouncements and maneuvers with succinct accuracy. The book, however, contains misstatements of historical detail (Alter suggests, for instance, that it was Theodore Roosevelt, rather than Ted Jr., who served as a founder of the American Legion). (May)
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The Chicago Tribune
senior editor Jonathan Alter's "chutzpah" in taking up the well-worn subject of FDR's presidency. Critics claim that Alter supports his major "breakthrough"that FDR toyed with martial lawwith the flimsiest of evidence: an early draft of his inaugural address. Alter is not a historian, as evidenced by some factual errors and elision, but what some critics describe as his sloppy research is overshadowed by a compelling portrait of the backroom Roosevelt, the one making deals and restoring the ideals of American democracy.
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