Portrait of the enduring romance between Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Franks and long-serving New York County district attorney Robert Morgenthau.
Franks (My Father’s Secret War: A Memoir, 2007, etc.) looks back on her life and marriage to the much older Morgenthau with focus and candor, and she endeavors to “talk about the personal life that he has kept so private during his forty-five years as a public figure.” The author first depicts their mutual attraction against the tumult of 1970s New York City, which had driven the rebellious, feminist Franks to become a Times reporter: “I ended up deciding not to join the Weathermen and to write its story instead.” Yet, she scandalized her fellow leftists in 1976 by dating Morgenthau, a low-key yet powerful establishment scion (his father was a prominent Franklin Roosevelt adviser, and he’d served heroically in World War II, as had her own father) who enjoyed public approval and a reputation for rectitude during a chaotic, high-crime era. Once they married, Franks contended with Morgenthau’s difficulty in moving past his revered first wife, who died following a painful bout with cancer. She also struggled to move her writing forward despite the duties of a “society wife,” though she continued to pursue prominent projects, such as her controversial interview with Hillary Clinton following the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Franks’ chiseled prose demonstrates her chops as a veteran journalist, although the narrative slackens somewhat as the couple settles into domesticity and Morgenthau continues to score high-profile legal victories. They encountered rough patches and periods of quarrel but also successfully raised two children in addition to Morgenthau’s earlier family. Ultimately, they always returned to a state of marital grace: “I rather envied Bob’s ability to start every moment anew, as though the present were the future and the past never happened.”
The boldface names give the book curb appeal, but this memoir’s hidden strength is its testimony to the beauty and difficulty of a long-term marriage.