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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

Prizewinning, best-selling author David Michaelis presents a breakthrough portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s longest-serving First Lady, an avatar of democracy whose ever-expanding agency as diplomat, activist, and humanitarian made her one of the world’s most widely admired and influential women.

In the first single-volume cradle-to-grave portrait in six decades, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis delivers a stunning account of Eleanor Roosevelt’s remarkable life of transformation. 

An orphaned niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, she converted her Gilded Age childhood of denial and secrecy into an irreconcilable marriage with her ambitious fifth cousin Franklin. Despite their inability to make each other happy, Franklin Roosevelt transformed Eleanor from a settlement house volunteer on New York’s Lower East Side into a matching partner in New York’s most important power couple in a generation. 

When Eleanor discovered Franklin’s betrayal with her younger, prettier social secretary, Lucy Mercer, she offered a divorce and vowed to face herself honestly. Here is an Eleanor both more vulnerable and more aggressive, more psychologically aware and sexually adaptable than we knew. She came to accept FDR’s bond with his executive assistant, Missy LeHand; she allowed her children to live their own lives, as she never could; and she explored her sexual attraction to women, among them a star female reporter on FDR’s first presidential campaign, and younger men. 

Eleanor needed emotional connection. She pursued deeper relationships wherever she could find them. Throughout her life and travels, there was always another person or place she wanted to heal. As FDR struggled to recover from polio, Eleanor became a voice for the voiceless, her husband’s proxy in presidential ambition, and then the people’s proxy in the White House. Later, she would be the architect of international human rights and world citizen of the Atomic Age, urging Americans to cope with the anxiety of global annihilation by cultivating a “world mind”. 

She insisted that we cannot live for ourselves alone but must learn to live together or we will die together. Drawing on new research, Michaelis’ riveting portrait is not just a comprehensive biography of a major American figure, but the story of an American ideal: how our freedom is always a choice. Eleanor rediscovers a model of what is noble and evergreen in the American character, a model we need today more than ever.

©2020 David Michaelis (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Eleanor

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I could not get past..

Narrator’s voice was pleasant. The book is well-paced. I could not get past the narrator’s pronunciation of “Eleanor” and “Ellener”. I found it grating and distracting. Silly, perhaps, but it ruined the book for me; I couldn’t bear it past chapter three.

7 people found this helpful

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Remarkable Woman, Eleanor

I have always read “of” Eleanor but never enough “about” her until now. I loved the opportunity to read this beautifully written story of her life. it left me sad, in a way. She was so rightly beloved ; her work in human rights won hearts and minds across the globe. But I am not quite sure she was ever “loved”- not in the ways she sought, perhaps. The author gives us entry to the life and mind of one of America’s National heroines in intimate ways that allows us a glimpse , not only of one so passionate about the cause of humanity, but of one who would also want to be known for her character and humanness. Eleanor, with all her energy and drive and conviction, was a force of nature. But she also was a girl, and then a young woman, and then in the middle and end of her life, always seeking the same things that mere mortals also seek: warmth, friendship,intimacy.

5 people found this helpful

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Stands apart from other biographies of ER

This book stands apart from other ER biographies with intimate descriptions of her life’s struggles and how they influenced her choices and decisions as a girl, woman, lover, wife and mother as well as those as diplomat, First Lady and champion for equality and human rights. The details and effort put into making her very relatable to the reader is a common thread throughout the book in ways I have not experienced reading other biographies.

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Solid

Eleanor Roosevelt is an icon in U.S. history and a reference around the world as someone committed to social justice. This book tells her story with competence but for some reason failed to engage me as I would have expected. Given her interesting life story, this is a book I recommend for those interests in social justice, feminism and US history, though it was not a page turner for me.

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What a woman!

I have been woefully ignorant of Eleanor Roosevelt - no longer. She was a blessing to millions of Americans and the people of the world. Unassuming, she did things no woman had been able to do up to her time. Her motivation was not self interest, but the good of all people. Read or listen to this book!

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Well written, seemed to be well researched.

This great book was just about ruined by the narrator. Although she had a pleasant reading voice, she frequently mispronounced words, most significantly, Eleanor’s name!

With effort, I overlooked her negligence, and felt rewarded by an informative and insightful biography.

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Improving America

Nicely narrated and chock-full of interesting anecdotes of a shining star in the history of America. Not all is perfection here, but her flaws make her more of a hero in my book than ever before.

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A Must Read Biography

Such an interesting read, and should be a lesson to all world leaders that their jobs are to work in the best interest of their citizens. Eleanor knew this better than most.

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history comes alive. excellent

well written
shows many parallels that we wrestle with today, on the political front
powerful woman
huge heart

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Eleanor

I loved this book. It allowed learning the personal struggles of a very public person. The book was very well written and easy to follow.

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  • Hiro
  • 02-17-21

Highly recommended

A great life, vividly written and beautifully narrated.
Such a fascinating individual who transformed herself to be one of the greatest leaders in the last century.