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Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship Paperback – October 12, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek (editor, Voices in Our Blood), delivers an eloquent, well-researched account of one of the 20th century's most vital friendships: that between FDR and Winston Churchill. Both men were privileged sons of wealth, and both had forebears (in Churchill's case, Leonard Jerome) prominent in New York society during the 19th century. Both enjoyed cocktails and a smoke. And both were committed to the Anglo-American alliance. Indeed, Roosevelt and Churchill each believed firmly that the "English-speaking peoples" represented the civilized world's first, best hope to counter and conquer the barbarism of the Axis. Meacham uses previously untapped archives and has interviewed surviving Roosevelt and Churchill staffers present at the great men's meetings in Washington, Hyde Park, Casablanca and Tehran. Thus he has considerable new ground to break, new anecdotes to offer and prescient observations to make. Throughout, Meacham highlights Roosevelt's and Churchill's shared backgrounds as sons of the ruling elite, their genuine, gregarious friendship, and their common worldview during staggeringly troubled times. To meet with Roosevelt, Churchill recalled years later, "with all his buoyant sparkle, his iridescence," was like "opening a bottle of champagne"-a bottle from which the tippling Churchill desperately needed a good long pull through 1940 and '41, as the Nazis savaged Europe and tortured British civilians with air attacks. One comes away from this account convinced of the "Great Personality" theory of history and gratified that Roosevelt and Churchill possessed the character that they did and came to power at a time when no other partnership would do.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
After their first meeting, in 1918, Roosevelt said that Churchill was "a stinker" Churchill didn't even remember Roosevelt. But by their next exchange, in 1939, Churchill was convinced that Britain's future depended on getting Roosevelt to like him. Meacham's engaging account argues that personal bonds between leaders are crucial to international politics. He draws heavily on diaries and letters to describe a complicated courtship and, at times, seems amazed at what Winston is willing to put up with from Franklin. Churchill paints a landscape for the President, sings for him, and agonizes when his notes go unanswered; Roosevelt teases him in front of Stalin, criticizes him to reporters, and eventually breaks his heart with a diverging vision of the postwar world. But Churchill never gives up, and he later recalled, "No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top customer reviews
Discovering letters by people in the room, so to speak, adds a highlight to understanding what was going on between the men, their nations and the world during this period.
I rated it a 5 stars because it became more engrossing over the middle and final pages....my appreciation to the Author!
I found additional understanding of their challenges as I later read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer. I found that Meacham's book was enlightening from the standpoint that he gives in his "Portrait of an Epic Friendship" a view of two great human beings mutually supporting each other in the "darkest hour" of modern history. In the processs, the author enables the reader to perceive how great leaders have their vulnerale sides and yet can to rally their countrymen to a miraculous victory over the evil, the Axis Powers.
I was but a young child during World War II. It is now very sobering as an adult to become familar through this book with two icons that I no ability as a child to understand nor their greatness to perceive. Now I understand them so much better as human beings.
WWII is unquestionably a dramatic current that keeps the pages turning but this book is, as the author clearly states, not an academic history book on the events of WWII or even the historical conferences between Franklin, Winston and later Stalin. This book is about humanity. I found myself shedding tears at the death of Franklin because Meecham exposed the personal sense of loss Winston (and others) felt in a way that even Winston could not convey in tributes to Franklin.
This book wasn't written to expose historical events, historical event collectors will be disappointed. The book exposes historical thoughts and emotions, courage and insecurities, uncertainty and stubbornness, loneliness and the joy of making genuine connections with others. This a different kind of history, one that might seem inherently speculative if it weren't for Meecham's extensive reliance on reliable sources. His references are almost 1/3 the book and are primarily Franklin, Winston, or friends and family that were immediately present and close to subjects. I'm extremely uncomfortable with whimsical author speculation and always felt comfortable with this book.
I came away with little new knowledge about historical events, but a much closer personal understanding of these two men. Well worth the trip.