Pamela's Reviews > Franklin and Lucy

Franklin and Lucy by Joseph E. Persico
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's review
Dec 01, 2011

liked it
Read from December 01, 2011 to January 15, 2012

Really only 2.5 stars. Of course the story was an interesting one, and one gets the feeling Mr. Persico has done his homework in terms of the combing the official and unofficial historical record. But I had issues with the way he presented the story, as well as the players in it. This wasn't his fiction, yet he introduces each and every "character" with his personal assessment of their physical beauty. Every assessment he made about Eleanor and FDR and Lucy Mercer seemed to be grounded in an unabashed partiarchal perspective and bias.

His bias against Eleanor Roosevelt in just about every realm, but particularly physical appeal was offensive to me. He judges her worth as a wife against the apparently more attractive Lucy Mercer mainly on the challenge of how appealing she was to men. AND how he felt she measured up to what FDR could have obtained in regard to the beauties of his time. It's nauseating, actually. A great and world-changing woman like Eleanor Roosevelt, who clearly had a strong hand in FDRs success, and Persico NEVER acknowledges this. In fact throughout the account--which I should mention does not have enough Lucy Mercer content to warrant the title at all--he takes overt jabs at Eleanor Roosevelt that suggest she was a nag, was unfulfilling sexually, and paints Lucy Mercer as an ethereal beauty and proper "lady" who no man would have been able to resist.

In fact, this book was highly sexist in a number of ways, portraying Lucy Mercer as infinitely more appealing also because she catered to FDR's personal needs so much more effectively (or so he determines) than Eleanor did, didn't tax his intellect or interrupt his thoughts, etc.

Although the book is ostensibly about FDR and Lucy, he spends a good amount of text on various nasty relative's assessment of Eleanor, even (I feel) contextualizing her own children's quotes to form a highly unflattering picture of her. He makes a big play at definitively proving ER's lesbian relationships, which he cannot substantiate, and further seems to use these allegations in an unflattering light--which I felt he was using as an argument to justify FDR's relationship with Lucy Mercer.

I did enjoy the historical components and learned quite a lot about these people who I previously knew nothing about, but I can't recommend this so-called biography. The writing style is sufficiently compelling, but a bit "old-style," and I felt information was presented without journalistic integrity. For instance, if Eleanor was reported to be one way by a friend or relative, Persico would find a conflicting report that supported a less flattering view of ER. He did the same with FDR. The only player in this story that he seemed utterly enamored with was Lucy Mercer, who he spends paragraphs describing as "angelic," entirely ladylike, with a captivating smile, blah, blah, blah.
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