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The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family Hardcover – December 6, 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 75 ratings

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From the Back Cover

Drawing on previously hidden historical documents and interviews with the long-silent “illegitimate” branch of the family, award-winning author William J. Mann paints an elegant, meticulously researched, and groundbreaking group portrait of this legendary family. Mann deftly argues that the Roosevelts’ rise to power and prestige was actually driven by a series of intense personal contests that at times devolved into blood sport. His compelling and eye-opening masterwork is the story of a family at war with itself—and of social Darwinism at its most ruthless, in which the strong devoured the weak and repudiated the inconvenient.

Central to The Wars of the Roosevelts is a fascinating alternate picture of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, Mann argues, experienced this brutality firsthand, witnessing her uncle Theodore cruelly destroy her father, Elliott—Theodore’s brother  and bitter rival—for political expediency. This “worshipful niece,” Mann contends, in fact bore a grudge against TR for the rest of her life. In addition, Eleanor’s intimate relationships with both men and women are handled here with a sensibility grounded in twenty-first-century awareness, without any obfuscations, explanations, or labels. From this deeply affecting family portrait, a new understanding of Eleanor, as well as of her relationship with Franklin, emerges.

Mann also brilliantly brings into focus Eleanor’s cousins, TR’s children—Alice, Ted, and Kermit—whose stories propelled the family rivalry (especially once Franklin became president) but have never before been fully chronicled. We also learn for the first time the story of Eleanor’s illegitimate half-brother, Elliott Roosevelt Mann, who inherited his family’s ambition and skills without their name and privilege, and whom TR did his best to exile. 

Illustrated with never-before-seen photographs from Elliott’s archives, The Wars of the Roosevelts is a deeply psychological and finely rendered history, illuminating not only the enviable strengths but also the profound shame of this remarkable and influential family.

About the Author

William J. Mann is the New York Times bestselling author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn; How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood; Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand; and Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. He divides his time between Connecticut and Cape Cod.


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