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Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938 Paperback – June 1, 2000
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With its gripping tale of a privileged ugly duckling turned socially conscious swan with the help of strong female friends--many of whom were lesbians and one of whom was probably her lover--the first volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt won awards and made headlines. That book followed its subject from her birth in 1884 through her husband Franklin's election to the presidency in 1933. Volume 2, which chronicles Roosevelt's first six years as America's most controversial first lady (Hillary Clinton doesn't even come close), maps her contributions to the New Deal, which Cook convincingly argues was primarily the fulfillment of a political agenda promoted by female reformers as early as 1912. Eleanor's turbulent relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok gets more space here than it probably deserves, and the story isn't as inherently exciting as the first volume's drama of a woman's coming of age. Nonetheless, Cook's subtle analyses of everything from Roosevelt's exceedingly complex marriage to her role as warm-up act for the New Deal's most radical programs are bracingly intelligent, her evocation of a remarkable personality rivetingly vivid. Eleanor emerges as neither the liberals' saint nor the conservatives' Satan, but an entirely human bundle of contradictions: warm-hearted, yet ice-cold when hurt; happiest in the public arena, yet needing the comfort of private relationships. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Readers who enjoyed the award-winning first volume of Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt may have expected just one other volume after all these years (the first published in 1992); if so, they underestimated both Cook, a City University of New York history professor, and her remarkable subject. Volume 2 covers just six years: the first years of FDR's presidency. At this rate, one can easily imagine at least two more volumes: one on the war years, ending with Franklin's death in 1945, and a second on Eleanor's very active life after the White House. ER went to Washington with doubts and concerns: Would she be able to play a role in the critical issues that had given her life meaning, or would she be forced to serve simply as hostess and housekeeper? Cook traces the ways Roosevelt continued to exercise influence: on housing, race, and women's issues, for example. A major concern here is why both Roosevelts were largely silent about Germany's treatment of its Jewish citizens; Cook examines what the Roosevelts knew and when, and she notes that FDR and his staff did not object to Eleanor expressing her views on domestic matters that conflicted with administration policy, but they severely restricted her speeches and articles on foreign policy subjects. Full of fascinating details; expect requests. Mary Carroll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This volume is a much harder read than volume 1 as this version grinds to a screeching halt in places. While I agree it was important to document ERs long, tortured relationship with Lorena Hickock, too much emphasis (and repetition) was placed on what looks to be a normal parting-of-the-ways as ER ascended.
There are some very intriguing and thoughtful moments in this book (which makes its a worthwhile read), but they are broken up by too many abrupt harbringers of moral/political doom or redemption with sparse or no follow-up.
Look in the "look inside this book" section here and go to page 14. This is a prime example of Cook's overuse of quotes. I appreciate that she did her research, but if she was going to quote so much, she should have just included one whole article. As it is, the whole page is a mish-mash of sentances and words taken from various sources creating a confusing unreadable mess.