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CLOSEST COMPANION by Geoffrey C. Ward

CLOSEST COMPANION

The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley

By Geoffrey C. Ward

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-66080-7
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 FDR's life was like a multi-sided house whose shape could not be discerned in one glimpse. This volume of letters and diary entries, shows readers a side rarely seen before. Margaret ``Daisy'' Suckley--FDR's sixth cousin, upstate New York friend, and archivist at his Hyde Park library--lurked for years at the margins of the crowded field of Rooseveltiana, but that is likely to change now. After she died at the age of 99 in 1991, her diaries and letters to and from FDR were discovered at her ancestral Rhinebeck home. They have now been edited with helpful annotations by Roosevelt biographer Ward (A First-Class Temperament, 1989, etc.). Although the material describes no physical intimacy, Daisy and Franklin's relationship grew warmer following a long car ride and hilltop encounter at Hyde Park in September 1935. In the last years of his second term, their flirtatious correspondence included plans for a cottage on top of what they called ``Our Hill.'' Because Daisy was quiet and physically unprepossessing, however, their relationship sparked none of the gossip engendered by the president's other relationships with women. Particularly during WW II, she provided the unquestioning devotion the president lacked because of Eleanor's frequent absences and the deaths of his mother and his secretary-confidante, Missy LeHand. FDR trusted her implicitly, disclosing his doubts about winning and surviving a fourth term, his longing for a quieter postWhite House career (he thought of quitting the presidency to lead the newly formed UN), even the imminent invasion of Normandy in 1944. Her unique access reveals an unbuttoned FDR: venting otherwise carefully guarded frustration and loneliness, plying White House guests with cocktails and stories, secretly visiting old flame Lucy Mercer Rutherford, and rapidly deteriorating under the burden of winning the war. Hardly unbiased, but an important close-quarters view of a complex president and human being. (b&w illustrations, not seen)