17 February 2011

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley

As a former history major, one might assume that I frequently pick up nonfiction to read for fun. Not true...at all.  Actually, there are very few nonfiction books that I have picked up for fun.  I think something about the plethora of history reading as an undergrad might have disillusioned me a bit on nonfiction reading.  But I digress.  I picked this book up on a whim and did not once regret it--start to finish.

In this book, Rowley takes on the Roosevelt marriage: it's ups and downs and all the eccentricities in between.  The Roosevelt marriage has taken on a shroud of mystery over the years that many have attempted to uncover.  Rowley does a fantastic job not (blatantly) "taking a side" in the discussion of the relationship that FDR and Eleanor had.  Their marriage was definitely non-traditional and what we know about them is today (still) clouded and incomplete.  Rowley, I think, would lead us to believe that such a mystery was intentional.  The conventions of yesterday and today would still look down upon a marriage such as Eleanor and FDR had.  They weren't the perfect couple, as many want to believe, but they had a successful marriage built on mutual trust and understanding. Rowley takes the reader from the very beginnings of their relationship through the end, with FDR's death and Truman's swearing in.

Rowley's writing makes this read like a novel.  It is enjoyable and fast-paced--not a dull moment (which, I suppose, one might expect when talking about the Roosevelt marriage).  This is probably the first time that a non-fiction biography has actually moved me to tears. I would definitely recommend this book to history fanatics, mild history fans, WWII fans, avid readers...everyone!

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