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5.0 out of 5 starsRoosevelt but I still enjoyed reading this bio very much
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2018
I have 11 books on FDR in my library so there is very little that I could find new of Mr. Roosevelt but I still enjoyed reading this bio very much. It was well written and easy to read so even someone making this book their first read on FDR will find it well worth the time. It is loaded with details of his life and political career but not overwhelming and the reading flows smoothly. Whether you are "really into" FDR or meeting him for the fist time you will enjoy this book.
The author is commended for achieving a fascinating and well research profile of the life of FDR, the New Deal and World War II era. While having read, as most Americans, other historic sources of this time period, Robert Dallek has brought these historic figures alive illustrating and describing their human relationships. As well, the narrative describes a national divide which FDR struggled to unite during his tenure in office with incomplete success. The limitations are not ignored such as the murderous racist lynchings, the Japanese-American internment, and the anti-Semitism inherent in recognizing the plight of the European Jews ending in the Holocaust. The author did not address the infamy of the MS St. Louis, the German liner in 1939 with 907 Jewish refugees denied entry to the U.S., as other countries. Of course, who could have reasonably imagined such horrendous inhumanity and atrocities in the lead up to WWII but there was sufficient intelligence thereafter. The health issues of FDR are revealed with excellent analysis. As described, FDR certainly suffered from his paralysis demonstrating character and courage, in fact, sacrificed himself in service to the Nation. The special relationship of FDR and Churchill ended too soon to achieve all their plans for the aftermath of WWII. Specifically, Truman failed to pursue a “Lend Lease II” as proposed by Sec. of the Treasury of Morgenthau in recognition that the U.K. had had stood alone against NAZI Germany until NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union and then the NAZI declaration of War against the U.S. As an aside, it is with curious speculation of what the American Isolationists would have demanded if Germany had not declared war on the U.S. Great Britain was on food rationing until 1954! An additional unfortunate consequence was that FDR was unable to have Congress enact his Economic Bill of Rights (Second Bill of Rights) in 1944 to further enhance the humanization of the capitalist economy.
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2018
I give this book four stories only because of the excellent prose. But, for me it was a disappointment. I consider Dallek to be an excellent historian. What I expected was a book devoted to Franklin Roosevelt as a politician. What I got was a full scale one volume biography, but with a little more emphasis on the politics. Sadly, the book is full of minor errors in dates, places and events. Worse, it is very poorly footnoted. For the casual reader who wants to know more about FDR this is no problem. For the reader who has a grounding in FDR's presidency the book is a disappointment.
Having read quite a few books on Roosevelt I have to say that this ranks at the top. There is plenty of detail on his life and his presidency but it is not overdone. The early relationship with his mother and involvement in the Wilson administration is very interesting as his character develops.. Seems like it is an objective writing and not touting FDR. Roosevelt knew how to play politics when he had to while having the courage to stand tough on his "new deal". The book also provides good insight on the U.S. non involvement in the early stages of WWII and why. Roosevelt acted methodically while playing politics with the congress as well as Russia and Great Britain. It's a good read for anyone interested in FDR and that important time period in U.S. history.
This is the 5th or 6th biography I have read on FDR . Dallek has addressed a panoramic view of his whole life. An ambitious but almost impossible task even given the extreme length of his work. Not much about FDR’s childhood and only a passing reference or two to Eleanor’s influence on him. It was much stronger than Dallek opines. He captured the relationship between FDR and Churchill but gave short shrift to the relationship between the Prime Minister and Harry Hopkins. But this is definitely a 5 Star book that is hard to put down. Dallek is an excellent and lucid writer whose research alone merits the quick purchase of the book for any FDR afficiandos.
5.0 out of 5 starsPresident Roosevelt united the American people, brought them prosperity and democracy.
Reviewed in the United States on October 25, 2020
Franklin D. Roosevelt a Political life is a great read. Its a study about his life, trials and tribulations . He is considered by historians as one of Americans greatest Presidents , behind President Washington #1 and Lincoln #2. FDR is elected by the American people to work with Congress use the New Deal to correct the damages done by the great depression. President Roosevelt united Americans, brought prosperity and democracy to the people. President Roosevelt ,the American people work with European Allies to defeat Hitler etc.etc in WW two.
3.0 out of 5 starsFDR the Politician or self serving opportunist
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2018
Interesting perspective on FDR. Leaves impression that the Depression and War primarily contributed to his career. His life as President suggests someone highly ambitious for power but lacking true compassion and sincerity while embracing deception. Contrast with his successor Truman who overall comes across as a better human being and with considerable achievements in a short period. The book seems to beg the question whether after 12years FDR has a legacy that can stand on it’s own .
3.0 out of 5 starsGood one volume biography of FDR
Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2018
The book gives you great insight into FDR as a political strategist in War and Peace. Dallek's portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt as an activist and political wife is excellent.
Although his discussion of FDR's battle against polio is well done, his description of FDR's later health problems becomes repetitive and sometimes distracts the reader from the larger story. More detailed discussion of FDR's revolutionary transformation of the Supreme Court and its impact on the New Deal would have been helpful.
Overall I would recommend this book as a good one volume biography of FDR.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn excellent biography of a great man.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 11, 2020
A well written and informative account of an outstanding president. I have read several books about FDR but was always left feeling that there was much more to say and analyse. This isn't the case here. The author has achieved an excellent balance between detail and analysis which left me with a clear impression of FDR's personality, his life and achievements. Where necessary punches haven't been pulled and so the book effectively covers many issues fairly and with balance. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 starsFor someone with only broad general knowledge of American 20th ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 27, 2018
For someone with only broad general knowledge of American 20th century history, this book provides a balanced assessment of one of the titans of the age. It does, however, draw heavily on secondary sources, and some rather simplistic comments on the Second World War suggest that it might not add much to specialist knowledge in other areas.
5.0 out of 5 starsRoosevelt and Hitler both came to highest office in early 1933 and died in 1945 and what a different legacy they left behind....
Reviewed in India on October 9, 2018
Franklin Roosevelt presided over the destiny of United States from 1933, when it stood at a cross road, unable to overcome the economic depression till 1945, when it was the most powerful country in the world by a long margin. During the same period, Hitler took his country to a disaster, where they were in shambles. I had been wanting to read about him. Having immensely enjoyed reading Robert Dallek's biography of John Kennedy, I decided to read his recent book on Franklin Roosevelt.
As the title suggests, the book is a political biography and does not really go into details around his personal life e.g., his relationship with his children, his courting of Elanor, etc. Most of the book deals with his conduct as the President especially the second world war years, so there is little about any childhood or other influences that made him the man that he was.
He was born to priveldge. He devotes most of his professional life to fulfiulling his political ambitions, without worrying about money. He went to an exclusive prep school and then to Harvard, where he did little to distinguish himself with his teachers or classmates. There was little to suggest that he would go on to become the mpst powerful man in the world, where even somebody like De Gaulle with all his pride has to put his case to Roosevelt. Soon after college, he became a member of the Senate of New York and the Assistant Secretary of Navy and the Democratic Parties' Vice Presidential candidate before he is 40.
He is then stricken by polio and fights on. His mother advises him to retire and take care of his health, but he and his wife are keen for him to pursue a political career. Despite being physically handicapped, he goes on to become the President of United States and keeps on getting re-elected. For me what stood about Roosevelt was:
1. In the run-up to becoming the President, nobody knows how Roosevelt will address the depression. Yet soon after becoming the president, he brings about banking reforms and restores some confidence in the banking system. He has a "privy council", but this does not comprise your normal economists and business leaders (whose medicines have in a way led to the current conditions), but a few academicians. It is unclear as to who advised him on these reforms, but he quickly gets off the ground and sells his reforms. One of the failures of the UPA Government was that Mrs Sonia Gandhi relied on the NAC, whose members were all failures as individuals in bring about economic prosperity.
2. Unlike his predecessor he does not wait for the markets to self-correct. While he is a progressive, however he is not bogged out by ideologies or strong opinions. He looks at all policy options, does not reveal his find till the last minutes and then implements what is best. He is willing to experiment and see the results. Deng Xiaping would also do something similar with introduction of EPZs and private agriculture. There is a lesson here for India, where a number of drastic steps like large scale nationalisation by Indira Gandhi Government or even demonetisation are pushed without any experimentation. However, while he increases the size of the Government, yet he preserves the system of free markets. Maybe this is a reason why Europe has been unable to keep pace with US in innovations, where there was large scale nationalisation after 1945.
3. Like all great leaders, he is a great communicator. Even while giving fireside chats over the radio, he conveys that he is sitting over there. When we meets people including those whom he does not like, he charms them. While people complain that he is devious and reveal his hands, it comes out that he is quite clear but keeps his options open till the last minute and tries to drive a compromise
4. Optimism is very important in leadership, which he always gives to rally his country. He also saw PM Narenda Modi give optimism in the run-up to the 2014 election.
5. He is a canny reader of situation. He understands Hitler very early on. He lives in a country where there is a strong public opinion for Isolationism. Yet he is clear about the dangers to the security of the United States. Within the constraints of the US political system, he does all within his power to help the US war effort. Despite the attack on the Pearl Harbour, he waits for Germany to declare war on US, before he declares a war of Germany.
One of the other things that stood out were his keenness on giving India freedom. Churchill points out that Indian army has a high percentage of Punjabi Muslims and he cannot take the risk of partition. This is something that Indian history books have not told us.
Overall, it is a great book and I highly recommend it.
I think it goes without saying that an author who writes a biography on one of the leading figures of the 20th Century (the leading figure?) is going to battle to find new information that sets their work apart from the many other books written on that figure.
Robert Dallek strives to add new information on Roosevelt's health issues by getting current day thoughts on what was ailing the President. He also provides us with a great deal of Margaret (Daisy) Suckley's observations based on her close friendship with FDR.
These points pretty much are the sole difference between his book and a number of similar books that have been written over the last 75 years since Roosevelt passed away.
This is not to say that Dallek's book is poor, indeed it is a very solid effort and in the 627 pages of writing there is a great deal of information provided.
That being said, I think there is a strong argument that FDR's life was so vast in it's accomplishments and it occurred at such a momentous time in US and World history that a single volume is unlikely to do his life justice unless it is a very big book, far longer than Dallek's is.
I have read a number of FDR books and so far the clear winner in terms of readability and comprehensiveness is the one by Conrad Black, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Champion of Freedom, which weighs in at over 1,300 pages.
Robert Dallek's book is good but not groundbreaking.
4.0 out of 5 starsAs pertinent today for the insights of political machinations.
Reviewed in Australia on October 4, 2020
Although contradictory in Churchill not remembering his first meeting with FDR, Dallek has cherry-picked some background information. It would have been useful knowing why the absence of the G-S Act brought about the Depression, leaving its importance to be assumed or researched. The presentation of FDR's and Churchill's 'great friendship' makes no mention of Elliot Roosevelt's recollection of FDR stating USA was not entering the war to save the British financial system and his intention to destroy it. That Russia asked if he had died of poisoning appears as entirely relevant to that financial matter. FDR is well portrayed as a humanitarian as is ER.