By far the most enigmatic leading figure of World War II. That s how the British military historian John Keegan described Franklin D. Roosevelt, who frequently left his contemporaries guessing, never more so than at the end of his life. Read more...
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By far the most enigmatic leading figure of World War II. That s how the British military historian John Keegan described Franklin D. Roosevelt, who frequently left his contemporaries guessing, never more so than at the end of his life. Here, in a hugely insightful account, a prizewinning author and journalist untangles the narrative threads of Roosevelt s final months, showing how he juggled the strategic, political, and personal choices he faced as the war, his presidency, and his life raced in tandem to their climax.
The story has been told piecemeal but never like this, with a close focus on Roosevelt himself and his hopes for a stable international order after the war, and how these led him into a prolonged courtship of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, involving secret, arduous journeys to Tehran and the Crimea. In between, as the war entered its final phase, came the thunderbolt of a dire medical diagnosis, raising urgent questions about the ability of the longest-serving president to stand for a fourth term at a time when he had little choice. Neither his family nor top figures in his administration were informed of his diagnosis, let alone the public or his closest ally, Winston Churchill. With D-Day looming, Roosevelt took a month off on a plantation in the south where he was examined daily by a navy cardiologist, then waited two more months before finally announcing, on the eve of his party s convention, that he d be a candidate. A political grand master still, he manipulated the selection of a new running mate, with an eye to a possible succession, displaying some of his old vigor and wit in a winning campaign.
With precision and compassion, Joseph Lelyveld examines the choices Roosevelt faced, shining new light on his state of mind, preoccupations, and motives, both as leader of the wartime alliance and in his personal life. Confronting his own mortality, Roosevelt operated in the belief that he had a duty to see the war through to the end, telling himself he could always resign if he found he couldn t carry on.
Lelyveld delivers an incisive portrait of this deliberately inscrutable man, a consummate leader to the very last."
- ISBN-13: 9780385350792
- ISBN-10: 0385350791
- Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
- Publish Date: September 2016
- Page Count: 416
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Lelyveld (Great Soul), winner of a 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Move Your Shadow, shows that there is much left to say about F.D.R. even though there is little left to learn of the main elements of his biography. Lelyveld’s approach is to focus on the last months of F.D.R.’s life and the influence of his declining health, always kept under wraps, on his decisions. The result is a gripping look into Roosevelt’s efforts to keep from both himself and the American people his severe hypertension and congestive heart failure during his successful fourth run for the presidency, as well as during the critical closing months of WWII. Lelyveld shows how others—national figures, family members, and the women who surrounded him—conspired to keep F.D.R.’s poor health a secret, and demonstrates that his doctors lacked either competence or candor. Yet those who saw him close up knew that his life was in danger. It didn’t help, as Lelyveld emphasizes, that F.D.R. was characteristically teasing and unrevealing about his thinking and intentions as well as his ailments. Though the consequences of the president’s illness might have been graver for the nation had he died even a few months prior, the U.S. survived while F.D.R. remained, as always, a sphinx, as he does to Lelyveld. This is a solid work of narrative history. (Sept.)