"ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: Vol. I, 1884-1933" by Blanche Wiesen Cook

"ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: Vol. I, 1884-1933"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Cook (History/John Jay;, The Declassified Eisenhower, 1981, etc.)--the first volume of a massive biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, which, in seeking redress for its subject, is flawed by its own (feminist) biases. Long overshadowed by the achievements of FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt's own extraordinary life deserves wider attention. The poor little rich girl who was born into one of New York's wealthiest and most distinguished families was unkindly called ""Granny"" by her beautiful but cold mother; lost both her parents before she was 12; was taken in by relatives who made her always feel an outsider; and, once married, had to contend with a tyrannical mother-in-law and a philandering husband. And yet, Cook tells us, there were triumphs and periods of fulfillment--schooldays in London; ventures into politics and civic activities; and the golden interlude of the 1920's, when ER led her own life independent of FDR, becoming a sought-after speaker, activist, and commentator. Cook conscientiously records the achievements and the many unhappinesses--not just the discovery of FDR's affair with Lucy Rutherford--as well as the consolation of friends, mostly women (though Cook believes that ER had an affair with Earl Miller, one of the Roosevelts' security guards). The volume ends with FDR's election to the presidency, an achievement about which, for FDR's sake, ER was ""sincerely glad""--but which also led her to comment, ""Now I shall start to work out my own salvation."" In less-than-luminous prose, ER gets her uncritical due while FDR becomes the typical male villain--duplicitous, weak, and owing everything to a good woman. Informative but not definitive.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 704pp
Publisher: Viking