Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reading...Franklin and Eleanor, An Extraordinary Marriage

Franklin and Eleanor, An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley.

I had heard about this book in an interview on NPR and have wanted to read it ever since.  There have been so many things written about the Roosevelts' that I was curious about someone writing yet another book.

I have to say I enjoyed it though I can see why some people gave it negative reviews. As with most biographies it is a compilation of other peoples writings, however in this book she does seem to frequently reference two other biographies for a lot of the information. So in that sense there wasn't a lot of new information about the Roosevelts. One thing she does emphasize is the community that the Roosevelts' built around themselves with their staff and friends.  It is remarkable when you think about the absolute loyalty that they inspired in others. One guy is quoted as saying "If FDR had asked me to jump out of a window I would have done so gladly." I am not sure that kind of loyalty exists these days. Or perhaps, we just do not have people that can inspire that type of loyalty.  I think the loyalty played a big part in the secrecy of their lives and the cover up of the extent of his health problems. These days the media is far too powerful to conceal the type of things that they hid from the American public, but the loyalty of those close to the family helped as well.  FDR was very careful to not be photographed in his wheelchair. He worked incredibly hard to get around on braces so that he appeared to be mobile. In fact, when he was elected President most of the American population knew that he had polio but didn't realize that he couldn't walk. Some accounts of people that met with him in person stated that upon meeting him they never even realized until later that he didn't walk. He was larger than life and you didn't really notice that his legs didn't work. In one account there was a rogue reporter that was trying to get a picture of him in his wheelchair. All of the other reporters crowded him out and made it impossible for him to get the picture.  A far cry from the paparazzi we have today.

I have previously read several books about the Roosevelts' and I would have said that I knew a fair amount about them. But for some reason I absorbed so much more this time. Maybe it is just the timing of reading the book.  I think being married I have a different perspective on their marriage than previously. There is no doubt that it is a baffling relationship but I believe there are a lot of lessons we could each learn from the Roosevelts'.

Reading this book makes me want to visit the Roosevelt museum at Hyde Park in New York. All in all, I recommend this book.

"til next time...

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