A thoroughly researched, though highly chatty and oddly superficial, attempt to rehabilitate the image of FDR’s mother, which was besmirched, the author argues, by less sympathetic Roosevelt biographers.
Pottker (Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, 2001, etc.) writes for the Princess Di set, for lovers of royals and riches and American dynasties. Here are accounts of who was wearing cream taffeta at which Roosevelt wedding; here are six pages devoted to the 1939 visit to Hyde Park of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI and the spats between Eleanor and Sara about the menu. Here is such a concern for the exteriors of people’s lives (what they wore, where they lived, how their homes were decorated, what they drove, where they traveled, what they bought) that interior lives must almost always be inferred, and then only with difficulty. Pottker just doesn’t want to get into it. Neither, in this strangely prudish account, does she wish to be more than coy about sexual issues. The author tells us that the teenaged Eleanor installed triple interior locks on her bedroom door because of drunken uncles. What does that mean? You won’t find the answer here. Nor does the author give credence to stories that FDR and Lucy Mercer actually had sexual relations. No, she claims, it was just an intimate relationship. Pottker tries to focus on the stories of the two titular women, but that’s hard to do with FDR filling the stage with his charm, his polio, his political successes. And, besides, the author’s principal intent is to reinstall Sara Delano Roosevelt on her pedestal—Sara, the woman who was on the cover of Time before her son (or daughter-in-law), the woman who was the heart and soul and financial officer for the Roosevelt clan. In short: the mother of all matriarchs.
Skims across the surface of a very deep lake. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)