FDR and the American Crisis

352p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. Random/Knopf. Dec. 2014. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780385753593; lib. ed. $27.99. ISBN 9780385753609; ebk. ISBN 9780385753616. LC 2013042351.
RedReviewStarGr 8 Up—Marrin blends biography and history in this masterly overview of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's leadership in two of the most dangerous crises of the 20th century. His outstanding writing draws on primary sources and includes ample background and detail about Roosevelt's personal and public lives and lengthy descriptions of the people and events that defined his presidency. Marrin is highly objective about Roosevelt, portraying him as neither saint nor villain. He explains how Roosevelt's upbringing and class, battle with polio, and ever-present political instincts influenced his decisions and gave him the confidence to confront often-intractable dilemmas, relieve suffering during the Great Depression, and wage World War II. However, Marrin also discusses some of the negative results of FDR's choices, including the continuation of Jim Crow and his reluctance to support anti-lynching laws, the exclusion of Jewish refugees and a tepid response to the Holocaust, and the tragic miscalculation of his ability to influence Joseph Stalin's postwar aggression in Eastern Europe. The author includes some of his own memories of FDR and concludes that the man deserves his historical rating as a great president. High-quality black-and-white photos in a clean layout enhance the text, and documentation is meticulous. This book far surpasses most extant titles about Roosevelt and provides a more nuanced evaluation of his life and presidency than titles such as Sudipta Bardhan-Quallin's Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A National Hero (Sterling, 2007). It will help readers better understand one of our most fascinating and influential presidents, and it deserves a place in all secondary collections.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO
As much a commentary on modern times as it is on the past, this biography examines FDR’s personal milestones (childhood, marriage, early political career, polio) as well as larger political events from the first half of the twentieth century (notably the Great Depression and WWII). Roosevelt emerges as something of an enigma, affable with the public while remaining aloof in private.
Marrin's biographies tend to go well beyond covering the lives of their subjects to provide rich examinations of the contexts of those lives. His latest is both a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and an exploration of the first half of the twentieth century. The book examines the personal milestones in the life of FDR (his childhood, his marriage to his fifth cousin Eleanor, his early political career, his polio) as well as the larger political events that touched the nation, most notably the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt emerges from these pages as something of an enigma, exuding warmth and affability to the public while remaining aloof and distant in private, even with family and friends; however, some of that enigmatic quality can be attributed to some unsubstantiated assertions on Marrin's part. Ultimately, this book often seems to be as much a commentary on modern times as it is on the past, and here the discussion of, say, the ethics of civilian bombing seems extremely relevant to current world events. Notes, a bibliography, image credits, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

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