Tori's Reviews > FDR

FDR by Jean Edward Smith
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's review
Jan 25, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: for-genj-book-club-2010, biographies, non-fiction
Read from March 30 to April 01, 2011

Many people might think that a biography is a biography; they all contain facts about someone’s life. They might think that the only thing important is the quantity and credibility of the facts contained in the biography. To a point, yes, the facts that back up a biography are important. But there are several other factors that can make even a well researched book a not so good one; writing style, the author’s bias (while it is pretty much inevitable for a biography to have a bias, there is a point where it can get in the way of the story) and the way the author presents the facts, to name a few.
The reason for the preamble? I needed it to explain my opinion of Jean Edward Smith’s FDR. The book had a lot of good facts that helped to give a picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and as someone who knew little about him before I learned quite a bit about our 32nd president, but it missed on so many other notes that in my opinion the book failed.
For starters, the writing style was one that I really didn’t care for. Smith broke one of the principle rules of writing, which is not to use a cliché phrase while writing narrative. FDR was filled with them, and once or twice I stumbled over his words because I was trying to take what he said literally when he didn’t mean it that way. Also, he used some language in his narrative, which I disliked completely. It made it almost unprofessional.
Also, his bias was overpowering. Even when you admire a man, which obviously Smith had deep admiration for FDR, you can still show the side of him that has his flaws. Yet any flaws FDR had I had to read between the lines of the narrative. And major flaws that the author couldn’t avoid he didn’t condemn; it felt like he either justified them or termed them “mistakes”.
I have trouble respecting Franklin Roosevelt as much as the author did. Yes, FDR helped the country through some hard times (whether his choices have helped us in the long term is a different discussion), but he had some deep character flaws. Roosevelt would put the votes he needed for reelection over important issues that should have been resolved (i.e. not trying to institute anti-lynching legislation in the South to protect people because he would loose votes there), or how he was consistently being disloyal to his wife and was never sorry for it.
So it really only boils down to this: is the book worth reading, and would I recommend it? My answer on both accounts is no, I really wouldn’t. Yes the book had plenty of facts, but none that you probably couldn’t find in other biographies. If you really want to learn about Franklin Roosevelt, I would recommend you try to find another biography besides Jean Edward Smith’s FDR. It just had more issues than I could handle.
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