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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom Paperback – International Edition, March 15, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Flying over the Nile near Cairo in October 1943, President Roosevelt looked down and quipped, "Ah, my friend the Sphinx." Sometimes portrayed that way by cartoonists in his time, he is utterly unsphinxlike in Lord Black's new biography. Massive and moving, barbed yet balanced, it is scrupulously objective and coldly unsparing of agenda-ridden earlier biographers and historians. It leaps to the head of the class of Rooseveltian lives and will be difficult to supersede. To Black, the Canadian-born media mogul (he owns the London Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times, among other papers worldwide), the second Roosevelt was, apart from Lincoln perhaps as savior of the Union, the greatest American president, and with no exceptions the greatest of its politicians. No FDR-haters have exposed, credibly, more of Roosevelt's "less admirable tendencies," from "naked opportunism," "deformed idealism" and "pious trumpery" to "insatiable vindictiveness." Yet the four-term president emerges in Black's compelling life as personifying vividly the civilization he, more than any other contemporary, rescued from demoralizing economic depression and devastating world war. His larger-than-life Roosevelt possesses consummate sensitivity and tactical skill, radiating power and panache despite a physical vulnerability from the polio that left him without the use of his legs at 39. "His insight into common men," Black writes, "was the more remarkable because he was certainly not one of them, and never pretended for an instant that he was." By comparison, Black claims, most associates and rivals seemed like kindergarten children, yet some exceptions are fleshed out memorably, notably Roosevelt's selfless political intimates Louis McHenry Howe and Harry Hopkins, and his vigorous presidential competitor in 1940, the surprising Wendell Willkie. (Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, comes off as both harridan and heroine.) Barring occasional lapses into English locutions like "Boxing Day" and "Remembrance Day"(the days after Christmas and Armistice Day), or "drinking his own bathwater," Conrad's style is lucid and engaging, witty and acerbic, with lines that cry out to be quoted or read aloud, as when he scorns an attack on the devotion of Roosevelt's daughter, Anna, with "Filial concern does not make the President a vegetable or his daughter a Lady Macbeth." A few minor historical errors deserve correction in what will assuredly be further printings, and the later sections appear to be composed in undue haste, but the sweeping and persuasive impact of this possibly off-puttingly big book makes it not only the best one-volume life of the 32nd president but the best at any length, bound to be widely read and discussed. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Black is the CEO of newspaper publishing giant Hollinger International, Inc. He has written a massive, comprehensive, but frequently ponderous biography of the great FDR. Unfortunately, Black spends an inordinate amount of time describing Roosevelt's personal life, often in mind-numbing detail. Does the fact that a young Franklin tried to conceal an accidental gash to his forehead really help to understand the man? Yet this work has great value, particularly when it focuses upon Roosevelt as president and indomitable wartime leader. In Black's view, Roosevelt, like Churchill, understood that the war was more than a mere struggle between nation states. He believed passionately, and correctly, that it was a struggle to preserve the ideals of liberty and democracy that had been nurtured and developed over centuries. It was that belief that sustained Roosevelt, and it was his skill and courage as a leader that allowed him to bring his people to that realization. Despite its flaws, Black's chronicle of a man of strength and vision is a worthy tribute to his legacy. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1328 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (March 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482823
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482824
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 2.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,392,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Literally hundreds of books have been written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet he remains, to much of the general public and to historians, a Sphinx. What different light could possibly be shed on this man, the most revered--and hated--American of the 20th Century?

Conrad Black, a highly successful Canadian businessman, offers many unique insights. In doing so, he brushes away the legends, distortions, and outright lies that have accumulated over the decades, and shows us an FDR scrubbed clean of both hagiography and historical revisionist muckraking. The author has rightly chosen to concentrate on FDR's 12 years as President, so Black's description of FDR's life before the presidency takes up less than 30% of the book.

It is Black's contention that FDR was not merely the 20th Century's greatest American President, but the most important person of the 20th Century - period. He bases this on seven key accomplishments:

1) FDR was, alongside Churchill, the co-savior of Western Civilization during its darkest hour.

2) FDR ended American isolation and permanently engaged America in Europe and the Far East. Roosevelt, an anti-colonialist since his school days, predicted the crack-up of the British Empire. Decades before the fact, he foresaw China's emergence as a major power, and the Middle East as a potential source of trouble.

3) Roosevelt reinvented the Federal Government's relationship to the people, reviving the economy and rescuing capitalism without resorting to the Fascistic and Socialistic extremes of other countries. Despite the contentions in the recently published "FDR's Folly," Roosevelt did indeed revive the domestic economy, reducing unemployment from over 30% in 1933 to about 7% by 1939.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an example of how much difference a writer's gift can make in the success of his efforts at biography. While there is little that is new or novel in this superb one-volume interpretation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's storied life, the integration of the established facts and the use of mainly secondary sources is done with such art and ability that it becomes a stunning read, one the average reader will find immensely approachable and eminently readable. What is more amazing is that this effort is done so well by a non-professional in the sense that author Conrad Black is neither an academic historian nor a professional author. Yet no one who reads this can doubt his way with words, a gift so considerable that he turns this mainly derivative biographical effort into what is sure to become one of the most widely read biographies of FDR yet.
The book is both entertaining and engaging, told in such an eloquent way that his often-humorous anecdotes and descriptions of various events involving both FDR and his significant orbit of friends and family is a source of constantly evolving interest to the reader. The author shows his admiration for FDR based on what he refers to colorfully as an abiding show of personal courage in the face of adversity and pain, as well as by his enormous social and political skills in nudging individuals and groups in the direction of what he felt to be in the greater good. Examples given include his meticulous and adroit handling of the country's movement away from an abiding isolationism and in the positive direction of active support of Britian as well as of China.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading Conrad Black's Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, it is hard for me to imagine a better, more comprehensive or more balanced biography of FDR. Roosevelt's life generally inspires biographies that are either hagiographic or hatchet jobs. Black disdains these simplistic interpretations. What he gives us instead is an incredibly detailed, strongly opinionated, but remarkably fair analysis of the man who was perhaps the greatest of twentieth century America's giants.
This is a massive book, running to 1134 pages. Rather than concentrating on a particular aspect of Roosevelt's life or career, Black has tackled the whole of it, both public and private. Roosevelt's pedigree and privileged childhood, his schooling, complex marriage, family relationships, rise in politics, life-changing illness, and presidency are all covered here in great detail. The significant appointments, political moves policies and legislation, political allies and enemies, and the crisis of each of his four presidential terms are covered in depth. Black writes engagingly, and does a masterful job of turning what could have been dull, dry details into a fascinating tale of political gamesmanship.
Black's FDR is compelling and complex. Born to privilege, the last great American figure to follow the old code of noblesse oblige, Roosevelt seems to have been genuinely concerned with the welfare of the masses, while at the same time being curiously indifferent to the feelings of those he knew personally. While not an intellectual, he possessed the most remarkable political instincts of any man of his time. Both gregarious and aloof, visionary and Machiavellian, he was, as he himself noted, sphinx-like and unfathomable.
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