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Way, way, way too much of a good thing.
on May 7, 2014
It's too long, repetitive and redundant. It's a shame because there is a lot of great material but you have to wade through an overwhelming amount of minutiae along the way. The book is definitely at its best in the first 200 pages of so when it deals with the early lives of Taft and Roosevelt. It falls into repetitive, drawn-out mode once Taft and Roosevelt begin their political ascents.
Once the two men are in their prime, the book repeatedly follows the same lifeless, mechanical pattern to convey events. Goodwin will briefly summarize something of note that Roosevelt or Taft did, and then recite what everyone else in the world said about it. For example: (a) Roosevelt made a campaign speech; (b) here's what Roosevelt wrote about the speech in his diary; (b) and here's what Edith wrote about the speech in a letter to her sister; (c) and here's what Taft wrote about the speech in a note to Roosevelt; (d) and here's what Ida Tarbell wrote about the speech in a letter to McClure; (d) and here's what newspaper 1 wrote about the speech; (e) and here's what newspaper 2 wrote about the speech..... (z) here's what newspaper 12 wrote about the speech.
This goes on and on and on for nearly every public achievement of Roosevelt, Taft and a half dozen muckrakers. It gets old and very boring.
Also, it's odd that Goodwin gives almost no commentary herself on what made certain achievements or events special. She doesn't bring a historian's perspective to the material, she just recites what happened and quotes the remarks of all the players ad nauseum. The only exception is in those early chapters about young Roosevelt and Taft, in which she does read between the lines here and there when dissecting letters and diary entries.
I finished the book on principle, I made it all the way to page 750. But I resented it and nearly quit several times because, hey, there are other books to read and at some point you have to get on with your life. I've never read Team of Rivals, but I'll be taking that off my "Books to Read" list as a result of this experience.