Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley

Another of my obsessions is American First Families and boy do I have the books to prove it!
This well written, well researched book by a rather talented writer delves into a partnership that was both inclusive and destructive, loving and kind, bitter and divisive and that was not only with each other but family members, employees, political cronies and almost anyone who came to have any closeness in their lives.

Poor Eleanor, the daughter of a drunk and a mother who called her Granny because she thought she was ugly, Shining star Franklin, the son of two wealthy and devoted parents whose ambitions for their son promised greatness, this future did not include marriage to cousin "Eleanor" who was seen as socially gauche, overly tall and not at all the beauty that society said Franklin should marry but marry they do against the wishes of Franklin`s rather overbearing mother Sara Delano Roosevelt (his father James is dead and Eleanor is an Orphan) and the journey begins...Pregnancy and ill suited child raising responsibilities, social commitments, martial relations and a feeling of being obsolete due to the unending presence of Sara combine to send Eleanor into a tailspin while Franklin is off working, working, working all to the good of the great future that awaits him and sails along merrily unable to assuage Eleanors disaffection with life, Louis Howe enters the picture, builds Eleanors self esteem and Franklins political career, polio strikes, love affairs on both sides, the Governorship of New York and the Presidency of the USA call and as history well knows at enormous personal cost Franklin and Eleanor amidst what could only be called a dysfunctional marriage rise with dignity and a certain amount of accomdation to lead the people of America through a more than difficult time, Depression and World War 11 and help to build a society that ripples out worldwide.

A great read, fair, even handed and not at all stodgy, Hazel Rowley invokes a time we will not see again and takes us into the era so well that you can feel the warmth and magic of the places the Roosevelts inhabited and also the pain and sadness for the personal damage done (the Roosevelt children had many marriages and many life struggles) and an understanding of the people and the times that shaped the American Dream that we so often hear talked about. America has alot to thank Franklin and Eleanor for.

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