Hissing Cousins

  • by Marc Peyser, Timothy Dwyer
  • Narrated by Suzanne Toren
  • 13 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A lively and provocative double biography of first cousins Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, two extraordinary women whose tangled lives provide a sweeping look at the 20th century.
When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, his beautiful and flamboyant daughter was transformed into "Princess Alice", arguably the century's first global celebrity. Thirty-two years later, her first cousin Eleanor moved into the White House as First Lady. Born eight months and 20 blocks apart from each other in New York City, Eleanor and Alice spent a large part of their childhoods together and were far more alike than most historians acknowledge.
But their politics and temperaments couldn't have been more distinct. Do-gooder Eleanor was committed to social justice but hated the limelight; acid-tongued Alice, who became the wife of philandering Republican congressman Nicholas Longworth, was an opponent of big government who gained notoriety for her cutting remarks (she famously quipped that dour President Coolidge "looked like he was weaned on a pickle"). While Eleanor revolutionized the role of First Lady with her outspoken passion for human rights, Alice made the most of her insider connections to influence politics, including doing as much to defeat the League of Nations as anyone in elective office.
The cousins themselves liked to play up their oil-and-water relationship. "When I think of Frank and Eleanor in the White House I could grind my teeth to powder and blow them out my nose," Alice once said. In the 1930s they even wrote opposing syndicated newspaper columns and embarked on competing nationwide speaking tours. Blood may be thicker than water, but when the family business is politics, winning trumps everything.

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What the Critics Say

"This is a brilliant idea for a book, brilliantly executed. With verve and insight, Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have written a powerful and entertaining portrait of an important and overlooked American relationship. By charting the turbulent connection between Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Peyser and Dwyer take us inside a momentous family during momentous hours. A terrific read!" (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power)
"Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have hit upon a most ingenious angle on the endlessly revelatory Roosevelt family, yielding a vivid, occasionally mind-boggling view of the conflicting impulses in our national character. Their portrait of these first cousins at odds is one of the most entertaining accounts of serious history I've read, eliciting laughter, groans, and ultimately a certain panoramic comprehension." (Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution)
"Hissing Cousins is just delicious - sharp, touching, funny, and wise. Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have brought to life a pair of the great women of the 20th century, in all their human flaws and glory." (Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Grating Narration & Over Done Topic

I think I have read too much about Eleanor and the Roosevelts in general over the years--enough in fact to last me a lifetime. The most recent depiction of Eleanor in the excellent bio Truman by David McCullough really squelched it for me when it comes to hearing more on this subject for a while.

But, more than the subject matter, I am swearing off any narration done by Suzanne Toren. I have gone from feeling neutral about her reading voice and style to prickly--to where I find myself now--despising. I can't bare one more minute of listening. Others have found this book a delight--I can't join them. Tedious is all I can say.
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- Sara

Interesting

I enjoy biographies and this was another well written one. The authors did a good job of organizing the abundant information about two very interesting women. Both Eleanor and Alice had their good traits and bad. I will say I still admire Eleanor much more than Alice. Despite Alice's intelligence and opportunities she still seemed to live her life as a "spoiled brat".
Suzanne Toren does a mediocre job as narrator. I don't really care for her interpretations (I have listened to several books read by her) but not enough to NOT listen to this book. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had been read by a different person.
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- Kay

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-31-2015
  • Publisher: Random House Audio