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T.R.: The Last Romantic Paperback – September 11, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Prolific Texas A&M historian Brands (Reckless Decade, LJ 11/15/95) makes his first venture into biography with this lengthy book on Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt's often tragic life?his first wife and mother died the same day under the same roof?is fully explored. Brands ignores neither the personal nor the political side of his subject, depicting Roosevelt as a romantic during his idyllic childhood; his grieving over the early death of his wife, Alice; the war in 1898; and his governorship and presidency. But as America's romantic era ended abruptly on the battlefields of France in 1918, Roosevelt's life ended as well. Brands uses Roosevelt's many personal letters to tell his story in a firsthand manner, resulting in the most comprehensive Roosevelt biography yet. As the centennial of the Spanish American War approaches, Roosevelt is once again in the news, and this excellent biography may well get its share of attention?and awards. Highly recommended for all libraries.?Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Libs., Ala.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Theodore Roosevelt emerges as considerably more than his toothy Rough Rider legend in this extensively researched, psychologically penetrating biography of our 26th president. Even as an asthmatic child, when he began to mold his mind with tales of heroes and his body with physical exercise, Roosevelt saw life as a series of struggles and achievements, according to Brands (History/Texas A&M Univ.; The Reckless Decade, 1995). In young adulthood, this quest for heroism redoubled with the death of his father, who set a near-impossible moral standard. T.R.'s Manichaean perception of the world gave him the moral confidence, energy, and charisma that endeared him to supporters, but it also led him to intemperate, even demagogic attacks on opponents (e.g., he accused Woodrow Wilson of ``criminal folly'' for not preparing the US more thoroughly for entry into WW I). Brands absolves him of what critics viewed as his hypocrisy, noting that Roosevelt's near-total incapacity for reflection and self-knowledge led him, for good and ill, to ignore legal and procedural obstacles (notably by fomenting revolution in Panama to get the canal built there). Brands also adeptly traces the effect of Roosevelt's romanticism on his private life, noting that T.R.'s grief over the death of his first wife was so intense that he almost never referred to her after she died and maintained a more distant relationship with their daughter, Alice, than he did with the children of his second marriage. Brands accords Roosevelt full credit for blazing a path for future presidents in assuming responsibility for the economy and international security, and for using his office's ``bully pulpit'' to goad the national conscience. Missing some of the brio of Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and of the colonel himself, but a life that pays its subject the ultimate tribute of taking him seriously as an adult. (b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st Printing edition (September 11, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465069592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465069590
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #708,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this book!
I had read Henry Pringle's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of TR written in 1931 and found it to be dated both in writing style and historical interpretation. Brands's 1990's update reveals little in the way of new data about this most interesting American, but it certainly brought to life in vivid detail a grand character the likes of which we shall not see again.
Brands correctly compared TR's successful effort to construct the Panama Canal to JFK's push to send a man to the moon. Historians can argue about which has had the more lasting practical impact. In the diplomatic game of hawks and doves, Roosevelt was the leading raptor of his generation. While president, TR stared down German Kaiser Wilhelm in a shrewd reassertion of the Monroe Doctrine during a crisis involving Venezuela. One wonders whether his "big stick" approach to international affairs and the particular influence he had on Germany might have changed the course of world history had he been elected in 1912, when he ran as a Progressive.
As Brands points out, Roosevelt himself was a historian of some note and served as President of the American Historical Association after leaving the presidency. The author quotes from a keynote address Roosevelt gave to one of the Association's meetings in which TR advocated for a romantic interpretation of history focussing on the qualities he idealized: principled bravery, heroism and moral certitude. Brands's account of TR's life pays homage to this approach, but is nevertheless even-handed. Roosevelt's personality eventually verged on being megalomaniacal; still, the story of the sickly, asmatic child molding himself through sheer determination into the great man he became is truly inspirational.
I found this book a pretty quick read despite it being over 800 pages.
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Format: Paperback
I repeat my review in order to link it to my newly created Amazon account.
I cannot speak highly enough of this book. The meticulous research and the flowing style of narrative make the biography both historically accurate and wonderfully entertaining. I felt at times that I was reading a novel. I was daunted a bit at first by the sheer size of the tome, but once my nose was in it I found it difficult to put down. One of the things that make this book different than the run of the mill biography is the sources the author used. He draws upon not only ommonly available documentation, but also upon personal letters to and from Roosevelt and his family, associates, cabinet members, and others. Also, the collection of photographs is in chronological order, which allows you to get a photographic history as well. The only instructive criticism I would give is that there is possibly a little too much psychoanalysis from the author on some of Roosevelt's motives. This should in no way discourage anyone from reading this gem of a book. My highest regards and kudos goes to Mr. Brands for a most excellent contribution to my library.
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Format: Paperback
Brands, while writing in robust prose worthy of one of the tragically few renaissance men to inhabit The White House, avoides any real serious critical evaluation of Roosevelt's policies (certainly when taken in a 21st Century context). Brands also doesn't truly succeed, in my view, of creating a broader historical context of the world Teddy lived in and how its effects upon us- always a key point in a successful biography.
Those criticisms aside, "The Last Romantic" works as a consitently entertaining and colorful character study. And that may very well have been Brands intention. If so, then he has succeeded marvelously so.
Roosevelt was many,many things: scientist, soldier, rancher, philosopher, statesman, traveller and historian (this is just an abbreviated list) besides a president who put the "conserve" in conservative; and Brands may be his biggest fan. Sharing Brands' passion for TR going into this book, I had my admiration confirmed.
All in all, this book is highly reccomended not so much as historical scholarship, but rather as a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man.
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Format: Paperback
If you are seeking a reliable and definitive book on TR's early years, the choice is Edmund Morris' 1979 biography. David McCullough's examination of Roosevelt is also essential (both books are available on Amazon). This book is breezy, sometimes entertaining, but ultimately shallow. It would be interesting to those who know little or nothing about Roosevelt, but a significant disappointment to those who are better versed in TR's life. One notes that there is absolutely nothing new in the book: no new historical discovery, photograph, insight or theory.
Brands writes well and weaves together a cohesive narrative, though skimpy in TR's post-Presidential years which are absolutely vital to understanding his ultimate guilt and grandeur. The author also is fairly strong in describing TR's two marriages and his complicated and neurotic relationship with eccentric daughter Alice. The narrative is much weaker when it comes to illuminating Roosevelt's years as Governor of New York and the details of his Presidential administration.
Roosevelt remains one of the most fascinating, exuberant and fun men in American history, but this book adds nothing significant to the canon of Roosevelt literature.
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