MOTHER R: Eleanor Roosevelt's Untold Story by Elliott & James Broush Roosevelt

MOTHER R: Eleanor Roosevelt's Untold Story

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The third and, mercifully, last installment of Elliott Roosevelt's unveiling of his mother begins with a tasteless reconstruction of FDR's death (""muscles twitching, and soiled by loss of continence""), the ""coverup"" of Lucy Mercer Rutherford's presence, and Mrs. Roosevelt's ""anguish"" on discovering the deception--before Elliott, in England, could reach home. Lucy is one millstone: let Mrs. R. recall the early, happy days of her marriage, and she is obliterating the ""estrangement and pain."" Another is the notoriously miserable childhood that left her with ""deep-rooted insecurity."" Then she lets Harry Truman persuade her to join the American delegation to the UN, she stands up to Vishinsky and earns the respect of her peers, she argues, compromises, pressures the Declaration of Human Rights into being--and emerges ""a changed woman."" Though the Aging-into-Greatness is overdrawn (as well as diminished by boudoir details), the emphasis on greater flexibility, patience, and tact--as compared with the unbending White House days--is ultimately persuasive. And goodness knows she was badly served by her children. According to Elliott's not impartial account, she was preoccupied into her seventies with earning money to extricate them from personal and business difficulties--which she tended to blame on herself. The public events--from the feud with Cardinal Spellman to the last campaign for Stevenson--are more thoroughly and responsibly covered in Joseph Lash's Eleanor: The Years Alone, where the identification of sources gives even similarly reported incidents a different aspect. Lash is also in a position to put Elliott--and his siblings--in perspective. But little as there is to like or respect in this enterprise, it has a dismal attraction, compounded of curiosity, compassion, and awe: here is probably the world's most esteemed woman opening her heart hopefully to each new daughter-in-law (EIliott presented her with five) and never cutting her out.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam