FDR U Experienced?
The book is a breezy introduction to FDR, a good if thin summing-up of his early years. A careless playboy politician who ended up the vice-presidential candidate on a losing Democratic ticket, Roosevelt then was suddenly struck with polio and left all but unable to use his legs.
The personal disaster led to a great growth of empathy for the underprivileged and downtrodden. With newly found inner strength (rent the terrific Warm Springs, starring Kenneth Branagh as FDR), Roosevelt willed himself back onto the public stage and into the presidency.
Alter does a good job sketching out just how desperate America and Americans were in 1932 and 1933; in the days before FDR’s March 1933 inaugural banks were failing all over the country. Roosevelt famously assured there was nothing to fear but fear itself, but it was his onslaught of try-anything legislation that began the country’s recovery.
None of this is covered in too much depth here, but those only vaguely familiar with FDR and the Depression will learn a lot. The book, of course, does not even begin to address the rest of FDR’s term, which only featured a World War.
Like we said, it’s one amazing life. – Richard Connelly
The Defining Moment, Simon & Schuster, $16 (paperback)