A WORLD OF LOVE: Eleanor Roosevelt and Her Friends 1943-1962 by Joseph P. Lash
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A WORLD OF LOVE: Eleanor Roosevelt and Her Friends 1943-1962

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Lash's second volume of Eleanor Roosevelt letters, 1943-62, is at once remarkable and enervating, depressing: remarkable in her displacement of both romantic and maternal yearnings onto younger, ""inaccessible,"" satellite men--after bodyguard Earl Miller, Lash himself and physician David Gurewitsch; depressing not only because her great UN achievements are seen (or shown?) to depend on these fragile, lopsided relationships, but because of Lash's insensitive exploitation of his own role. The first 100 pages (of approximately 600) are devoted to the single year 1943, and have chiefly to do with Lash: his dispatch to Pacific combat and romance with Trude Pratt--a focus that continues through his return and marriage to Trude, and FDR's death in early 1945. As Lash indicated in the previous volume, raw FBI files suggested that FDR might have had him sent overseas in suspicion of a Lash/ER affair--a matter to which he keeps returning, before and after dismissing the whole rigamarole in a footnote. (""Subsequent scholarship has cast doubt on [the] story."") But there's no question, to Lash, that she was ""in love with"" him; and the reader will have no doubt that she was adoring, devoted, and needy (impelled, on Guadalcanal, to see his ""corner of a tent. . . so she might tell Trude""), as well as determined not to be devouring. After FDR's death, family problems take brief precedence--financial and political wrangles among the children, their constant domestic upheavals, their reproaches to and dependence on her. Then Gurewitsch appears, with his own domestic morass, his various amours and threatening liaison with glamorous Martha Gellhorn. Lash, whose dislike is apparent, admits his ""jealousy."" He also embellishes ER/Gurewitsch incidents with his own and others' speculations. But there can be no doubt she was in passionate, painful love with Gurewitsch--writing him, in her seventies, ""suddenly I had to face how little I meant to you. I was crushed & rejected & ashamed, & for two days it was hard to concentrate on anyone but you. . . . Forgive me. . . ."" (When Gurewitsch eventually married, she held the wedding at her apartment and bought a house with the couple.) In conjunction, with her family miseries and the world's work that kept her going through both, it's all much too much for Lash's feeble, soppy (and self-justifying) commentary. ""Perhaps those who. . . did not call on her for help did her a disservice, for she was part of the 'small minority' who were able 'to find happiness along the path of love.'"" But in thinking or writing about Eleanor Roosevelt, all this--ill-digested here--will have to be considered and assessed.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday