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The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family
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The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The award-winning author presents a provocative, thoroughly modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair

Drawing on previously hidden historical documents and interviews with the long-silent
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published December 6th 2016 by Harper
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Jeff Allen In the author's note, he states he is not related. "I have fleshed out the life of Elliot Roosevelt Mann (no relation to my own family)..."…moreIn the author's note, he states he is not related. "I have fleshed out the life of Elliot Roosevelt Mann (no relation to my own family)..."(less)

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Start your review of The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family
William Mann explores the personal differences between the Republican Oyster Bay Roosevelts and the Democratic Hyde Park Roosevelts. While he does not cover the political differences, he notes that despite the different parties, their progressive policies were similar. Through this study of their “wars”, you see that the issues were about clan and who should/would/could become the next Roosevelt president.

Mann begins with the patriarchic rule of Theodore Roosevelt: how he pushed children, insti
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Did you see the recent Ken Burns documentary of Ted, Franklin, and Eleanor? I thought it was so interesting, enjoyed it very much. The Wars of the Roosevelts covers the same trio and much of the basic information is necessarily the same. But Wars has much more detail, everyday goings on, scandals, and even gossip. It's light on politics but rich in personality, going into backbiting on the campaign trail, who's having affairs with whom, and so on. I loved it, it was every bit as fascinating as t ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Edgar Award-winning biographer and novelist William J. Mann (TINSELTOWN) acknowledges at the start of this captivating, ambitious and hefty biography that the feuding branches of the Roosevelt dynasty have become well-trod territory for historians. But Mann is a superb historian and researcher, rarely parroting previous tales without investigating their validity. This often leads him to revisionist perspectives on familiar subjects, and THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS certainly gives fans of historic ...more
Sarah Beth
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins.

This comprehensive family biography covers the rise and fall of the Roosevelt family in national prominence between the years of 1890 through 1962. Primarily focusing on four individuals - Theodore, his daughter Alice, Franklin, and Eleanor - the book explores the interfamily relationships and how the fiercely competitive Roosevelts were ruthless in pursuit of their goals, even when (and sometimes especially when) it came to t
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 Fascinating non-fiction. The book starts with President Teddy Roosevelt, and ends with the death of Eleanor Roosevelt. Provides in-depth analyses and facts that factored in the development of the Roosevelt personalities. Includes historical details but focuses primarily on the human side and interactions and rivalries of the families. This book gave me a better insight into how politics works. Just because one has great talents, ideas, and ability, cannot get elected unless one 'plays' polit ...more
Susan Greene
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had mixed feelings about this book at the same time I could not put it down. It is very well researched and presented but I was uncomfortable with the focus on the saddest aspects of the lives of this family. It is, at the least, timely in indicating that people with character flaws can persevere and make significant contributions to their country.
Michele Weiner
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I guess there is very little ground to break when it comes to the political careers of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. It is a relief to finally know that they shared a distant great-grandfather who emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in the mid-17th C. Franklin and Theodore were fifth cousins; future first lady Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt was Teddy's niece, the daughter of his brother, Elliot. Anyway, Teddy was often a bastard. He hounded Eleanor's father half to death. It seems that the R ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read. The story of Eleanor Roosevelt anchored this book around the families of Franklin, Teddy, and the lesser known Elliott Roosevelt. It's funny how history tends to gloss over some of the ugly of these legendary figures in US history... and there was a lot of shocking ugly as each Roosevelt tried to vie for the "Iron Throne" if you will, regardless of the cost. Bottom line, there are skeletons in every closet no matter how revered you are or how spotless history tries to paint you... ...more
Lisa Mcbroom
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyc
Mann delves into the drama and conflict and rivalries into the Roosevelt family. It all started with Theodore Roosevelt's rivalry with h is brother Elliot and his determination to undermine Elliot's confidence. This led to Elliot's daughter Eleanor becoming Teddy's favorite which alienated my favorite Roosevelt Alice and caused a rivalry between cousin Eleanor and Alice. This gets three stars because Mann seems to drone on and on. ...more
Tom Rowe
Take everything negative you can find about the Roosevelts and put it in a book, and you get this book which reads like an 80s drama series along the lines of Dynasty or Dallas. Who would have thought that these people could be so mean to one another. It's all a race to see who can be the biggest bastard, bitch, drunkard, or womanizer. It's all very sad, yet perversely interesting. I felt as if I was at the checkout stand trying to read the National Inquirer without getting caught by my fellow s ...more
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerfully written. Profound insights. Personalities exposed!!
This is an awesome read. It comes as close to a biography of Eleanor herself as I have ever read!
Only regret was that my Kindle edition did not include the photos referenced.
BTW - is the author a descendant of Katie Mann?
Joseph J.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ANyone interested in the Oyster Bay-Hyde Park Roosevelts, and 20th century politics and culture
I've enjoyed William Mann's books on Hollywood history and now he has turned to political history. This biography of the Roosevelt family centers on the dysfunction, alcoholism and depression which ran through several generations. We see Theodore's callous if understandable for the time treatment of his brother Elliot's addictions. Mann details the life of the "secret" Roosevelt-Elliot's son with a servant girl. The tragedy of Kermit Roosevelt is also followed at length. The bitter feud between ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Fascinating, richly detailed story of the feuds, squabbles and secrets in the Roosevelt family. At times the reveals are shocking, making the book difficult to put down. You will never think of the Roosevelts in the same way again, as their human weaknesses and family struggles are exposed. Gripping reading.
Meh. Other than the information about Eleanor Roosevelt's illegitimate half-brother there wasn't anything here I hadn't read before, and a lot of things I felt were pertinent to a better understanding of the Roosevelts were left out. Curiously unsympathetic towards the entire family, I thought. ...more
Natasha M.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
If like me, you've read at least ten books about the Roosevelts, you might want to add this one. It's well written and I believe, well researched. Much of the material has been covered before, but the dynamics between the members of the families are interesting. It certainly points out how all families have problems.
If you haven't read about the Roosevelts, this should probably not be the first book you read unless you are studying family dynamics.
There is the famous Oyster Bay (Theodore) vs
Jonathan Jasinski
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Woo, took awhile to get through this one but I got there. Good stuff. A bit wordy at times, I found myself scanning and still picking up the key stuff at a few points- but the whole book is well put together, it covers a lot of ground, and it all comes together satisfactorily. It’s interesting stuff, and i feel like the insight into how political families might operate is really valuable. Shout out to Kermit, my poor misanthrope main man- “River of Doubt” is a shorter read covering Kermit and Te ...more
Robert S
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Wars of the Roosevelts covers the long rivalry between the Oyster Bay Roosevelts (Teddy & Alice Roosevelt) versus the Hyde Park Roosevelts (Franklin and Eleanor). Mann starts off by saying he is not trying to cover familiar ground, instead giving more context and insight into the infighting that took place within the family that most arguably shaped the 20th century.

Wars of the Roosevelts does cover some familiar ground for readers who have read previous Roosevelt biographies but Mann does live
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a very well researched book on a great political family. Several of the members of the family are well known figures. If you are a fan of TR, FDR or Eleanor prepare to be disillusioned when you see how shabbily they treated each other and their family members. Despite their greatness on the political and military stage, they were a very dysfunctional family. I have always been a fan of TR. His treatment of his brother was appalling. I have never cared for FDR or his wife. I thought of th ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not sure why it took me forever to read this book but it did and I’m finally finished.

Very interesting read, I knew of the feud between the Roosevelt branches but never of the extent and how long the feud had lasted! William Mann has written an incredibly researched and detailed book of this history. While filled with facts, this doesn’t read as a dry history tome - the reader feels empathy, frustration, and admiration for each of the “characters.” Being able to make the reader feel they actuall
Dan Dundon
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I never realized how much animosity existed between the Democratic and Republican branches of the Roosevelt families until I read this book. Mann's book amply illustrates just how ruthless both sides of the family were not only in projecting success but in concealing flaws.
When I finished this excellent non-fiction work I came away with a very sad feeling for the Roosevelts. Despite all their wealth and success, the Roosevelt families faced a great deal of tragedy much of which was brought on by
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book about the rivalry between the Franklin Roosevelt and the Theodore Roosevelt families. The Roosevelts’ rise to power and prestige was driven by a series of personal contests that devolved into blood sport. This is the story of a family at war with itself, of social Darwinism at its most ruthless. There is a focus on Eleanor Roosevelt, who witnessed her Uncle Theodore destroy her father, Elliott for political expediency. It images both families in a very poor light and makes us thin ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history of the two Roosevelt families: the Oyster Bay Roosevelts(Teddy and Edith Roosevelt family) and the Hyde Park Roosevelts(Franklin and Eleanor and family) and all the experiences and challenges they endured and triumphed over. It explores the rivalry and enmity between these two branches of the family. This book covers the span from the mid 1800's up to Eleanor Roosevelt's death in 1962. Such an important time historically and this book takes you inside the lives of these polit ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can read about Teddy or Eleanor or FDR - or other Roosevelts - separately, but this biography provides a more complete "mapping" of the complex and fascinating Roosevelt family dynamic and how each of these powerful individuals influenced others in the clan. I also appreciate how the author gave fully dimensional portrayals. He didn't knock anyone off a pedastal, necessarily, but did offer a more nuanced perspective. No one person is ever all good or all bad. An important read for the US his ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written—has a more personal feel than a regular non-fiction work. The author gave a thorough yet, candid view of this extraordinary family and their contributions to this nation. Many great people—FDR, Eleanor, TR Sr, Alice, TR Jr and many more. However, as with many famous, political American families there were many tragedies, rifts and heartbreaks as well. The author presented them well and in a very humane way—I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this family—many members I ha ...more
Sue Myers
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
There were many wars of the Roosevelts, within the immediate family, between the various branches of the family and amongst even the Presidents Roosevelts. To name a few: Elliot Roosevelt, father of Eleanor, and his family, who isolated him. Between the Oyster Bay and the Hyde Park Branch. Between Alice Roosevelt Longworth(Teddy's oldest daughter) and Franklin Roosevelt. Between Eleanor and Franklin in some aspects. Between Kermit(Teddy's son) and his family because of his alcoholism and his mis ...more
Sarah Colwill
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: loved-it, non-fiction
Mann does an excellent job of weaving the relationships and events of both Roosevelt families. Mann did seem to center on Eleanor and how her relationships with her father, uncle and cousins effected her later life with her husband, mother in law, children and personal relationships. Mann does not go into political details, so a basic interest and knowledge of American history is required to reap the maximum benefits of this book.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I have read many books about a lot of the Roosevelts. So while some of the material in this book was known to me, I did learn some things from it. I liked the fact that the author covered TR's children and what happened to them, and not just TR. I also thought he did a good job in covering some of the important relationships in FDR's and ER's life; as well as bringing the story of ER's half brother to light. I would probably give this book a 3.5 actually. ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not your typical Roosevelt biography. This covers the back-story of a very large, famous and often dysfunctional family, beginning with TR's generation and moving forward through the children and grandchildren. It may seem gossipy, but the situations described are backed up by actual writings of family members, as well as newspaper accounts and interviews. This isn't for the faint of heart; it's a rather bumpy historical ride, but one well worth taking. ...more
Dorothy Caimano
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As the title indicates, it was most obviously about the contention between various branches of the Roosevelt family. And of course it was about WWI and WWII. But it was also about the class system that America is not supposed to actually have. It provoked some interesting discussions with my husband (a psychologist) about the difficulties of dealing with mental health problems among family members. (In addition, I really liked the epilogue.)
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Also writes children's books under the pseudonym Geoffrey Huntington. ...more

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