Top positive review
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Thorough and engaging biography
on 12 October 2014
This is a thorough and eminently readable biography of one of the giants of twentieth-century politics. Before reading this, I knew a little about FDR, gleaned through biographies and other texts on WW2. This book doesn't require a huge amount of prior knowledge, and explains background in concise, clear detail. It's clear that Smith has a great deal of respect for FDR, and overall it's a very positive presentation of his life and presidency. However, it's not uncritical; certain decisions, particularly ill-conceived attempts to influence the Senate or Congress are deconstructed, and their flaws clearly explained. Particularly interesting is the emphasis on FDR's close circle of family and other confidants; these show a man of loyalty and single-mindedness, who inspired great devotion from many who knew him closely. The account of the WW2 years is one of the most engaging sections of the book; it portrays a world statesman at the height of his political powers able to convince others, ranging from influential leaders such as Churchill and Stalin, to the general populace, of his views and methods. His declining health is movingly described, and the book ends rather abruptly with his death. It is perhaps a pity that there is no detail given on his funeral, for instance, and no attempt at summing up his life and influence. Overall, though, biography at its best - thorough and engaging.