FDR by Jean Edward Smith

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Synopsis

One of today’s premier biographers has written a modern, comprehensive, indeed ultimate book on the epic life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In this superlative volume, Jean Edward Smith combines contemporary scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to provide an engrossing narrative of one of America’s greatest presidents.

This is a portrait painted in broad strokes and fine details. We see how Roosevelt’s restless energy, fierce intellect, personal magnetism, and ability to project effortless grace permitted him to master countless challenges throughout his life. Smith recounts FDR’s battles with polio and physical disability, and how these experiences helped forge the resolve that FDR used to surmount the economic turmoil of the Great Depression and the wartime threat of totalitarianism. Here also is FDR’s private life depicted with unprecedented candor and nuance, with close attention paid to the four women who molded his personality and helped to inform his worldview: His mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, formidable yet ever supportive and tender; his wife, Eleanor, whose counsel and affection were instrumental to FDR’s public and individual achievements; Lucy Mercer, the great romantic love of FDR’s life; and Missy LeHand, FDR’s longtime secretary, companion, and confidante, whose adoration of her boss was practically limitless.

Smith also tackles head-on and in-depth the numerous failures and miscues of Roosevelt’s public career, including his disastrous attempt to reconstruct the Judiciary; the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans; and Roosevelt’s occasionally self-defeating Executive overreach. Additionally, Smith offers a sensitive and balanced assessment of Roosevelt’s response to the Holocaust, noting its breakthroughs and shortcomings.

Summing up Roosevelt’s legacy, Jean Smith declares that FDR, more than any other individual, changed the relationship between the American people and their government. It was Roosevelt who revolutionized the art of campaigning and used the burgeoning mass media to garner public support and allay fears. But more important, Smith gives us the clearest picture yet of how this quintessential Knickerbocker aristocrat, a man who never had to depend on a paycheck, became the common man’s president. The result is a powerful account that adds fresh perspectives and draws profound conclusions about a man whose story is widely known but far less well understood. Written for the general reader and scholars alike, FDR is a stunning biography in every way worthy of its subject.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Jean Edward Smith

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Jean Edward Smith is the author of the highly acclaimed FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; John Marshall: Definer of a Nation; and Lucius D. Clay: An American Life. A member of the faculty at the University of Toronto for thirty-five years, and at Marshall University for twelve, he is currently a senior scholar in the history department at Columbia.
 
Published May 15, 2007 by Random House. 914 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for FDR

Kirkus Reviews

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Another, a demagogic loose cannon, was Louisiana’s Huey Long, who, probably happily for FDR and the country, met death by assassination before he could more directly threaten FDR’s presidency.

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Kirkus Reviews

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his account of the GI Bill of Rights, for example, leaves out key players and elides the tale so that FDR seems its only author.) Altogether, an exemplary and highly readable work that ably explains why FDR merits continued honor.

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Publishers Weekly

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With regard to the political, the biographer seamlessly traces Roosevelt's evolution from gawky, aristocratic, political newcomer nibbling at the edges of the rough-and-tumble Dutchess County, N.Y., Democratic machine to the consummate though physically crippled political insider—a man without pr...

Feb 12 2007 | Read Full Review of FDR

Publishers Weekly

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Starting from the premise that the legacy of a public figure is largely defined by the quality and number of his enemies, Fried (Communism in America, etc.) views the successes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt through the lens of his triumphs over five prominent foes: Al Smith, New York governor and ...

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Suite 101

A challenging new book aims to change forever the perception of Stone Age Britons from the primitive to the sophisticated.

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USA Today

FDR's mistress, mother and wife have all gotten plenty of ink.Now, the woman who was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's social conscience Labor Secretary Frances Perkins is getting some well-deserved attention.Kirstin Downey's excellent new biography of Perkins, The Woman Behind the New Deal, is timed...

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USA Today

(Smith quotes a historian who described Lucy as "a quintessential Jane Austen heroine.") When political reality and his mother forced FDR to give her up, FDR grew emotionally through his suffering, Smith writes.He became more sensitive to others' pain, even before polio crippled him.

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Daily Kos

Ironically, as Badger points out, FDR initially was not willing to run a deficit and at first was insisting on a balanced budget, which led to the odd conundrum (from this historical distance) of a president wielding virtually war-time powers to keep a lid on spending and government at a minimum:...

Mar 22 2009 | Read Full Review of FDR

Bookmarks Magazine

Though FDR is a well-covered subject, New York Times editor Adam Cohen provides a unique take on Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 Days by focusing on five advisers who helped the president craft the New Deal.

Jan 19 2009 | Read Full Review of FDR

Bookmarks Magazine

In FDR, Jean Edward Smith reminds readers of the 32nd American president’s sweeping social reforms and his extraordinary leadership in World War II (Winston Churchill called Roosevelt the greatest man he had ever known).

Aug 07 2007 | Read Full Review of FDR

National Review Online

As I also wrote — and Powell doesn’t dispute this — when the workfare participants are considered to be employed, Roosevelt did virtually eliminate unemployment within three years, and even when they are not included as employed, unemployment declined from 33 percent to 12.5 percent in the first ...

Mar 18 2009 | Read Full Review of FDR

Project MUSE

Together, they represent a real contribution to a fascinating period, from the beginning of the New Deal to the closing days of World War II, in which religion and politics were entwined in new and complex relationships as American Catholics were increasingly and publicly recognized as wielders o...

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Project MUSE

Overall, Fried lays out very clearly the contrast between Roosevelt's drive to support Britain in "her lonely, desperate resistance to Nazi Germany" (209), Coughlin's staunch isolationism in the face of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Lindbergh's anti-Semitic argument that the Jews were "trying t...

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