• by Jean Edward Smith
  • Narrated by Marc Cashman
  • 32 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of today's premier biographers has written a modern, comprehensive, indeed ultimate book on the epic life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.This is a portrait painted in broad strokes and fine details. We see how Roosevelt's restless energy, fierce intellect, personal magnetism, and ability to project effortless grace permitted him to master countless challenges throughout his life. Smith recounts FDR's personal battles and also tackles head-on and in depth the numerous failures and miscues of Roosevelt's political career. Summing up Roosevelt's legacy, Smith gives us the clearest picture yet of how this quintessential Knickerbocker aristocrat became the common man's president. The result is a powerful account that adds fresh perspectives and draws profound conclusions about a man whose story is widely known but not well understood. Written for the general reader and scholars alike, FDR is a stunning biography in every way worthy of its subject.


What the Critics Say

"A magisterial biography...the author's eloquent synthesis of FDR's complex and compelling life is remarkably executed and a joy to read." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Awesome. You know its a good book when you a) wish it were not over and b) feel like you lost a personal aquaintance at the end of the biography and c) feel like re-reading(listening) again. I thought this was an oustanding biography, rapidly moving and insightful into both the character and facts about FDR. The author does inject his perspective or opinion clearly in some areas, for instance about the Yalta conference, he clearly puts in many references that indicate that he does not believe FDR was impaired at that time.

My only regret is that the biography ends right at his death, with no retrospective summary of what the author thought FDR meant or what he thought his strnegths and weaknesses were, including any thoughts on the downstream consequences of his actions.

In addition, the narration is outstanding, extremely well paced and inflected. As good as any download I have listened to.
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- Thomas

Interesting but flawed

Mr Smith has written an extremely interesting biography of FDR and, in reading it I have learned things I had not seen in other books. He writes very well and I consider this to be a valuable addition to the other books I have about FDR and the period from 1932 through 1945. I would have liked to have been able to give this book 5 stars but found, to my disappointment, that the book seemed to be missing the objectivity that 60+ years after the events should have imparted. Many events derogatory to FDR were left out and a fair number of statements were made that seem, at best, to be questionable to me.

Franklin Roosevelt was, in my view, a great President and almost alone among leaders in this country understood the danger posed by Nazi Germany to the Western World and civilization as we in the US understand it. He withstood the waves of isolationism and made plans to help Great Britain when she stood completely alone. This alone, in my view, is enough to elevate him to the status of a great President even without his efforts to overcome the great depression. His stature in history is high enough to acknowledge both his faults and his mistakes. This book rarely mentions either.

Left undiscussed in this book -

1) His refusal to help the Hoover administration, in its last days, to ease the suffering of the general public due to the depression. A word from the President elect would have convinced the Democratic majority in Congress to allow passage of relief. This is not even mentioned in the book.

2) His unwillingness to be honest with the public about the likelihood of war with Germany after 1939. Roosevelt understood that war was coming to the US and did everything he could to help Great Britain within the constraints of the law, but did not try to convince the American public that the war was coming to the US whether we wanted it or not. Leading is what leaders are supposed to do. Roosevelt's efforts to "wage war but not declare war" are covered in detail but no mention is made of the basic dishonesty of knowing war is coming and telling the US that we were going to keep out of it. Each statement that US "boys" were not going to be sent into foreign wars was misleading at best.

3) His unwillingness to try to help the Jewish refugees about the St Louis when Germany sent it to the US. The ship, packed with Jews, was sent as a propaganda play to prove that nobody wanted Germany's Jews. Roosevelt probably could not have granted them entry to the US due to US entry restrictions but the US had enough influence with Central and South American countries to have gotten them refugee status somewhere. He did nothing to try to get them sanctuary and, although this episode is mentioned in the book, Roosevelt is not taken to task for his failure. All of these poor people were returned to Europe and, with the exception of those granted asylum in the UK, almost all of them died in concentration camps.

4) There was no discussion about the valid opposition to some of Roosevelt's policies by important politicians in the US. In particular the decision to leave the gold standard and effectively devaluate the dollar and the opposition to the TVA were left completely unmentioned. The people opposing these policies were wrong but they had valid viewpoints and the arguments should have been covered.

There are other statements in the book that I, personally, found to be questionable. The implication that Roosevelt had a mastery over the communications networks in the country that no other politician since has been able to match left out both John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan each of whom, arguably, was the equal or better of Roosevelt in that regard. The statement that the US Army was "enthusiastic" about running the CCC camps flies in the face of what George Marshall, who had command over part of that effort, had to say about it later. And the statement that Roosevelt would have won the 1932 election even if there had been no depression has no basis in fact that I am aware of.

None of these issues are serious enough to discredit or even harm this book in any way. The book is first class and is a valuable read but would have been considerably improved, at least in my opinion, by the inclusion of some criticism of FDR beyond his attempts to "pack" the Supreme Count (which is covered in considerable detail). Any book that spends time discussing the flowers at Eleanor Roosevelt's mother's wedding could have included information on these and some other subjects.

Marc Cashman does a very good job of narration and adds considerably to the book. I recommend this book to anyone interested in FDR's life in spite of the fact that I am only giving it 4 stars.
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- Mike From Mesa "MikeFromMesa"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-30-2007
  • Publisher: Books on Tape