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Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship Paperback – October 12, 2004
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
It is particularly remarkable in that the personalities and accomplishments of either man, and the overwhelming events they faced, could have swamped the tale in any direction. Indeed, one has to admit that Churchill tends to dominate. But his written and oral volubility naturally had that effect, and since Roosevelt ultimately carried the military trumps, and was the more elusive and interesting character, he more than holds his own.
I especially appreciate Meacham's light-handed, even deployment of his research material. One never feels that he is relying exclusively on one or two sources, or just transcribing his whole notebook. Instead, the depth and shading in the portrayal of each man extends to their primary family and professional relationships as well: Harry Hopkins, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and both Randolph Churchills, are people I now want to know better.
Meacham is going for something deeper and more tender than portraiture, however - a study of friendship, perhaps the least understood human relationship. I had no idea how much time they spent together, and each of their meetings is chronicled day by day for details of their actual interactions, and their real feelings about each other. I think he gets pretty close to truth - a relationship full of humanity, respect, affection, and genuine love, consummated in truly extraordinary circumstances.
All this, and it's a sensible length. Definitive, deeply satisfying, and highly recommended.
Meacham has done a great job of describing, in intimate detail, the relationship between these two men. I consider the book to be a true hybrid between a biography and a history because of the style of writing - intermixing details about the individual (the biography part) with situations in which the person played a role (the historical part). Meacham intertwines these two in remarkable fashion.
This is an important book that truly displays how Roosevelt and Churchill were not only political compadres, but were indeed friends. I greatly enjoyed how Meacham discussed, with such attention to details, those situations in which both men were involved and played a critical role. I also appreciated the way in which Meacham explained how those encounters bolstered the friendship between the men - and why.
Although the friendship was rocky at times, with Roosevelt bowing to political necessity in lieu of being true friends, there is no doubt in my mind, based on Meacham's book, that these two men were so much more than just political heavyweights - they were indeed friends.
Well, I didn't. It's not that Jon Meacham provides that much new material in this book--though there are some new letters and previously unreleased documents-it's that he molds what has been out there into a fascinating study of the personalities of the two men. I may not have learned new facts about these men but I gained greater insight into not only their friendship but also their marriages, their characters, and their lives from this study. Both men became more fully realized, more human, more alive in this book.
"Franklin and Winston" follows a simple, chronological structure. It begins with a phone call from Roosevelt to Churchill (who was not yet Prime Minister) at the onset of WW II in Europe; it ends for the most part with the death of Roosevelt and Churchill's inability to attend his funeral. In between, yes, you see all the major events of WW II on the European front. But you also see a Churchill trying to woo Roosevelt-and through his efforts, the neediness in his personality, the boy trying to please. You also realize the tremendous feeling that Churchill had for his American forebearers (his mother was American) and the sincere emotion that he was capable of even at the most difficult of times. With Roosevelt, you see the caginess of his personality, the boy who was the center of his parents' universe and now really was the center of the world. You see in greater depth the feeling that he did have for his wife Eleanor, even though he was spending time in his last days with his former love Lucy Rutherford. You see his ability to charm Churchill--and then turn off the charm. You're never quite sure if he really loved Churchill or not-and then you realize he may not have been sure either.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy history books and biographies, particularly of the WW II vintage. It is not the best place to begin a study of WW II or either man--the book presupposes a certain amount of knowledge. However, it is an excellent place to continue your studies.