50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction
While I read this some time ago now, I still remember the exuberance I felt during and after reading this highly insightful and truly enjoyable book. Superbly written, perfectly narrated and highly recommended.
This is not a faltering portrayal of FDR. It reveals a rather shallow and insecure person who somehow became president despite all of his personal, moral, and physical weaknesses. It is hard to believe that someone lacking so much could have attained so much, but then again look at our current and most recent presidents. There are quite a few revelations that I never heard in history class... I guess this book also reveals the difference between the media of back then versus today. I don't think someone with so many secret flaws could get away with becoming president today, i.e. Herman Cane, John Edwards, Gary Heart.
The key point Alter seems to be making is that FDR deserves credit for preserving democracy given that things were so awful back then that newspapers, businessmen, etc. were ready to let FDR be a fascist dictator and that the people were so desperate they would have accepted that. I watched the movie "Gabriel over the White House" mentioned in the book and I think Alter is making a fair assessment of this huge issue.
The personal bio of FDR, especially how his paralysis affected him was much more interesting than I anticipated.
The key debate now is over the claim from the reactionaries that FDR caused or prolonged or worsened the Depression. From this book, it is absolutely clear that FDR did not cause the Depression because it was fully under way while Hoover was in office. One can't really tell from this book if he worsened it because the book focuses on the beginning of FDR's first term. It seems undeniable though that FDR gave the country a huge psychological boost right away with his speeches and all his programs, and that's something. Again, Alter's point is that the choice wasn't just between Depression and immediate recovery. Revolution, complete chaos, communism, dictatorship and other disasters were all possible outcomes at the time and that context needs to be remembered.
Although I am enjoying this book I believe the title and summary to be somewhat misleading. I expected the book to focus more on the first hundred day of FDRs admnistration and was looking forward to learning more about what he did during his first 100 days in office to begin turning the country around...hoping for interesting insights and paralles into what Obama may face. Instead the author discusses FDRs career progression at length. It is only at the end of part one that FDR is elected. That said I am looking forward to listening to part two.
I wish Jonathan Alter had narrated his own book. This narrator's voice often makes an insight sound like a snide remark. I had to think of Alter reading this in his own voice, which does come through in the writing usually despite the narrator, in order to guess at the real meaning of a sentence. It seems the narrator is listening to his own voice and concerned more with vocal intonation than with content. With Alter's voice I'd have given it 5 stars.