S. & S. Oct. 2020. 704p. ISBN 9781439192016. $35. BIOG
Michaelis (Schulz and Peanuts) presents an accessible, if abbreviated, biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) in this study that begins by examining the former first lady’s traumatic childhood. According to the author, Roosevelt’s father’s considerable charisma, and alcoholism, had a huge effect on her psyche. Roosevelt’s mother, cool and critical, nicknamed her “Granny” at a young age for her serious demeanor. After the deaths of both parents, Eleanor spent most of her adolescence with the Halls, her mother’s family. The fateful marriage and partnership with her cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is explored with little nuance; Franklin is portrayed as a poser, overly concerned with his own ambitions and careless of Eleanor’s feelings. His affair with Lucy Mercer is given more ink than Eleanor’s complicated and significant relationship with Lorena “Hick” Hickok, which trails off in the narrative without closure. Michaelis blazes through Eleanor’s many years in the White House and spends little time investigating her evolving political and social conscience, as well as the important figures and activists who influenced her. He dwells overlong on her final illness and decline, when one would have hoped for more of a discussion of her considerable legacy.
VERDICT Roosevelt’s life does not necessarily lend itself well to concision. Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent volumes remain the definitive record.
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