A focused account of a complex marriage that continues to fascinate.



A distinguished biographer’s fresh take on the marriage of the Roosevelts, the most dynamic couple ever to occupy the White House.

Scholars agree that Eleanor Roosevelt transformed the role of First Lady every bit as much as Franklin transformed the presidency. They divide, however, on the “touchy subject” of their unconventional marriage. Most see it as deeply troubled and champion one or the other partner. Rowley (Tête-à-Tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, 2005, etc.) declines to take sides, instead portraying the union as a courageous and radical arrangement that fulfilled the needs of each, a partnership as unprecedented as the manner in which they both served the country. By 1925, married 20 years with five surviving children, the Roosevelts were already a nontraditional union, for two reasons: Franklin’s World War I affair with Eleanor’s social secretary, Lucy Mercer, and his midlife affliction with infantile paralysis. From that point, notwithstanding a continuing deep respect and affection between them, they led largely independent lives, satisfying emotional needs through a series of romantic friendships that expanded the marriage into a kind of community involving colleagues, friends, employees and family. The people, with the exception of Louis Howe, FDR’s longtime political advisor, rarely overlapped. Eleanor’s circle included her bodyguard, a young socialist and her late-life personal doctor. She also cultivated close female companions, two Democratic Party activists with whom she lived for a time and a journalist. Rowley explores each of these relationships, acknowledges Eleanor’s life on “the edge of the lesbian world,” but admirably refrains from declarations for which she has no evidence. Franklin’s intimates included a distant cousin, flirtations with a woman publisher and most importantly, his personal secretary, “Missy” LeHand. Intending not to idealize the marriage, the author nevertheless touches too lightly on the Roosevelts’ powerful and devouring neediness. Their thoroughly undistinguished children were not least among the broken hearts and confused minds these two titans left behind.

A focused account of a complex marriage that continues to fascinate.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-15857-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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