Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most fascinating and written-about presidents in American history - yet the most poignant tale about this larger-than-life man has never been told.
More than a century has passed since Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, but he still continues to fascinate. Never has a more exuberant man been our nation's leader. He became a war hero, reformed the NYPD, busted the largest railroad and oil trusts, passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, created national parks and forests, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and built the Panama Canal - to name just a few. Yet it was the cause he championed the hardest - America's entry into WWI - that would ultimately divide and destroy him. His youngest son, Quentin, his favorite, would die in an air fight.
How does looking at Theodore's relationship with his son and understanding him as a father tell us something new about this larger-than-life man? Does it reveal a more human side? A more hypocritical side? Or simply, if tragically, a nature so surprisingly sensitive, despite the bluster, that he would die of a broken heart?
Roosevelt's own history of boyhood illnesses made him so aware of what it was like to be a child in pain that he could not bear the thought of his own children suffering. The Roosevelts were a family of pillow fights, pranks, and "scary bear". And it was the baby, Quentin - the frailest - who worried his father the most. Yet in the end, it was he who would display, in his brief life, the most intellect and courage of all.
Burns begins the book with the Spanish-American War then goes into TR’s relationship with his youngest child, Quentin. TR had six children and was a doting father. Quentin was a fragile child and became his father’s favorite. TR was also a fragile, illness-prone asthmatic child. TR claims he overcame his ailments with a rigorous exercise regime. As the youngest child, Quentin grew-up in the White House. Burns tells of the escapades of the “White House Gang” led by Quentin. TR brought up his children with a strong sense of noblesse oblige. Most of the information in the book is well known to students of TR. Burns presumably attempts to show TR as a father, but Burns spends more time discussing TR than his children. I would have loved to learn more about Quentin and his siblings. Unfortunately, Quentin died young. He was an Army aviator during WWI and was killed when his plane was shot down over France.
I was disappointed at the number of factual errors in the book. There were so many of them I wondered if Burns did not do his research or the publisher failed to have the book edited. I will provide you with two examples of simple easily verifiable errors. The first one: Burns said Quentin signed up for the Army Air Corp. The Corp did not exist until 1926. During WWI, it was the Army Air Service. The second example: Eric Burns states Quentin flew an American made fighter plane when in fact, he flew a French Nieaport28. The USA did not make a combat plane during WWI. The book is medium length at just over seven hours. The book could have been a delight but between the factual errors and the concentration on TR, with little on the father-child relationship, the book for me was spoiled. This is the first book by journalist Eric Burns that I have read. I cannot recommend this book unless the reader knows little about TR.
Traber Burns does a good job narrating the book. Burns is an actor and audiobook narrator.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Very good read. Great insights between Theodore Roosevelt and his youngest son, Quentin. Get and read!