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—Eric Rauchway, Times Literary Supplement
“Meticulously researched and authoritative. . . . Adequate single-volume biographies about FDR abound. But none are as heroically objective and wide-angled as this fine Dallek effort. . . . By tapping into the vast correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt, Dallek discerns a more strained relationship between the leaders than presupposed. . . . Luckily for us, Roosevelt is with us again in Dallek’s outstanding cradle-to-grave study. When it comes to choosing the two indispensable presidents in U.S. history, Dallek places Roosevelt alongside Abraham Lincoln, the other great improviser with Providence on his side.”
—Douglas Brinkley, The Washington Post
“Dallek fully incorporates into his narrative Roosevelt’s complicated, conflicted relationship with the several women in his life and is especially good on the role Eleanor played, as goad and political advisor. He also makes it clear, in a way other biographers do not, that almost from the moment he entered office, Roosevelt set out to educate the nation to the fact that the United States was threatened not only by economic depression at home, but also by fascist aggressions abroad. . . . Dallek’s is a workmanlike addition to the literature on Roosevelt.”
—David Nasaw, The New York Times
“Dallek constantly seeks to find an answer to FDR’s political trajectory: What fueled his ambition to serve in the political arena and with what political aims? Also the extent to which it was FDR’s experiences—abroad as a child, then at school, at Harvard, in the New York legislature—that determined his later progress in the real world. Undergirding all of these, Dallek sees Roosevelt’s moral war on deceit and corruption. In an era in which moral, linguistic, and financial corruption hold sway, this story could not be more timely. . . . From beginning to end Dallek has earnestly followed his own curiosity as a citizen and as a teacher, so that at last we come to see in FDR the magisterial, central figure in the greatest and richest political tapestry of our nation’s entire history.”
—Nigel Hamilton, Boston Globe
“[Dallek] believes that FDR was a born politician of ferocious and very nearly infallible instincts, and through a combination of extensive research and first-rate storyteller’s gifts, he makes the reader believe it, too. His Roosevelt is a man of great but always complicated drives, a worrier and second-guesser who nonetheless often believed the intensely stirring things he so often said and wrote. . . . Dallek relates in fine and compelling detail all the thorniest scandals of the FDR years. . . . But far more prominent than scandal in these pages—and far more welcome—are Dallek’s frequent examinations of the now-forgotten political opposition FDR faced at every stage of his long tenure as president. . . . We see FDR afresh, which is an amazing feat in its own right.”
—Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor
“An insightful, incisive and intelligent one-volume work of biography and history—and a pointed primer on how things in Washington get done. In a period defined by division, gridlock and tweet storms, Dallek crafts a pointillist portrait of the four-term president, who knew almost intuitively how to use the power of his office and how to reach consensus.”
—Peter M. Gianotti, Newsday
“Few scholars have the qualifications of Robert Dallek to tell this story. . . . Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life covers much more than the momentous challenges faced by FDR as president. It gives an honest outline of his life including his attitudes as a privileged ‘undemocratic snob’ who used ‘the influence of men he considered unworthy of public influence.’ . . . Despite the book’s size, the complexity of its subject, and the narrative’s variance with common public memory, it is a fast engaging read that corrects, even scatters, misconceptions. The author provides an entertaining narrative in a style not unlike that of FDR.”
—Robert S. Davis, New York Journal of Books
“A characteristically adroit work that is balanced in coverage and prudent in assessment. . . . [Dallek’s] emphasis falls on the two great crises of FDR’s presidency—the Depression and WWII—and highlights FDR’s emergence as a skillful politician. . . . All will benefit from Dallek’s principal addition to earlier works on FDR: the convincing argument that as early as May 1943 FDR was showing signs of the illness that would kill him. The result is a comprehensive retelling of a major American life that will rank among the standard biographies of its subject.”
“This focused study of the four term-winning president emphasizes his instinctive feel for the public mood. . . . Dallek is a seasoned presidential historian and biographer. Here, he writes with authority about Franklin Roosevelt’s political life and mission to create a ‘new social order’ during a time of ‘enduring national transformation.’ . . . Dallek examines several formative factors that contributed greatly to Roosevelt's ability to successfully tap the public sentiment and address significant issues. . . . The author also effectively shows how Roosevelt was an astute political animal who sometimes made questionable decisions for political expedience. . . . A lively one-volume treatment well-suited to libraries and schools.”
“[Dallek] takes on the daunting task of providing a comprehensive one-volume biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He succeeds in presenting the abundance of information in a flowing and highly readable narrative, and he supports FDR’s story with memorable sketches of the president’s many associates . . . his varied opponents, the foreign leaders who served opposite him (Dallek is particularly good on Churchill), and many others. Eleanor, too, is portrayed in full, complete with a notably honest account of her marriage to Franklin. . . . A first-rate biography and a must-buy for most public-library history collections.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Recounts the politician’s greatest challenges, including trying presidential elections and the years leading up to and during World War II. Dallek’s familiarity with his subject and deep understanding of American history and context shines in his clear and engaging prose. . . . readers will gain a solid sense of Roosevelt’s political mind and an inspiring appreciation of his mighty character. . . . This highly recommended, expertly crafted book will please a variety of readers, especially those interested in biographies as well as presidential, military, and American history.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“Robert Dallek has brought a lifetime’s immersion in the American presidency to produce what will almost certainly be seen as the most authoritative single-volume biography of our most important 20th Century president. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life is a landmark work that deserves to be placed on the same shelf as those of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., James MacGregor Burns, and William E. Leuchtenburg.”
—Richard Moe, author of Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War
“A great liberal historian has written the best one-volume biography about our greatest liberal president. Sparing neither criticism nor admiration, Robert Dallek offers an FDR relevant to our sharply divided nation: a master politician who gained the trust of most of his fellow Americans by empathizing eloquently with their problems and working himself to death to solve them.”
—Michael Kazin, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918
“Robert Dallek is a leading authority on the presidency and his book on Roosevelt is a masterful and complex portrayal of one of America’s greatest presidents, a leader who had the vision and character to reveal to the country its potential as a great nation.”
—Howard Dean, former DNC chairman and six-term governor of Vermont
“Robert Dallek’s brilliant portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt is an inspiring read, a timely reminder that political leadership involves judgment and intelligence. Battling the Great Depression and a global war, the 32nd president harnessed wisdom to decision making, and political acumen to governance. No historian understands FDR better than Dallek, who has captured in this single page-turning volume how America was really ‘made great again.’”
—Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
About the Author
- ASIN : B06XFM74LF
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 7, 2017)
- Publication date : November 7, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 27495 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 703 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #111,586 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
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.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
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.
FDR is well portrayed as a humanitarian as is ER.