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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom Hardcover – Oct 23 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1360 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Collins Canada; New edition edition (Oct. 23 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481841
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.4 x 6.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Flying over the Nile near Cairo in October 1943, President Roosevelt looked down and quipped, "Ah, my friend the Sphinx." Sometimes portrayed that way by cartoonists in his time, he is utterly unsphinxlike in Lord Black's new biography. Massive and moving, barbed yet balanced, it is scrupulously objective and coldly unsparing of agenda-ridden earlier biographers and historians. It leaps to the head of the class of Rooseveltian lives and will be difficult to supersede. To Black, the Canadian-born media mogul (he owns the London Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times, among other papers worldwide), the second Roosevelt was, apart from Lincoln perhaps as savior of the Union, the greatest American president, and with no exceptions the greatest of its politicians. No FDR-haters have exposed, credibly, more of Roosevelt's "less admirable tendencies," from "naked opportunism," "deformed idealism" and "pious trumpery" to "insatiable vindictiveness." Yet the four-term president emerges in Black's compelling life as personifying vividly the civilization he, more than any other contemporary, rescued from demoralizing economic depression and devastating world war. His larger-than-life Roosevelt possesses consummate sensitivity and tactical skill, radiating power and panache despite a physical vulnerability from the polio that left him without the use of his legs at 39. "His insight into common men," Black writes, "was the more remarkable because he was certainly not one of them, and never pretended for an instant that he was." By comparison, Black claims, most associates and rivals seemed like kindergarten children, yet some exceptions are fleshed out memorably, notably Roosevelt's selfless political intimates Louis McHenry Howe and Harry Hopkins, and his vigorous presidential competitor in 1940, the surprising Wendell Willkie. (Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, comes off as both harridan and heroine.) Barring occasional lapses into English locutions like "Boxing Day" and "Remembrance Day"(the days after Christmas and Armistice Day), or "drinking his own bathwater," Conrad's style is lucid and engaging, witty and acerbic, with lines that cry out to be quoted or read aloud, as when he scorns an attack on the devotion of Roosevelt's daughter, Anna, with "Filial concern does not make the President a vegetable or his daughter a Lady Macbeth." A few minor historical errors deserve correction in what will assuredly be further printings, and the later sections appear to be composed in undue haste, but the sweeping and persuasive impact of this possibly off-puttingly big book makes it not only the best one-volume life of the 32nd president but the best at any length, bound to be widely read and discussed. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Black is the CEO of newspaper publishing giant Hollinger International, Inc. He has written a massive, comprehensive, but frequently ponderous biography of the great FDR. Unfortunately, Black spends an inordinate amount of time describing Roosevelt's personal life, often in mind-numbing detail. Does the fact that a young Franklin tried to conceal an accidental gash to his forehead really help to understand the man? Yet this work has great value, particularly when it focuses upon Roosevelt as president and indomitable wartime leader. In Black's view, Roosevelt, like Churchill, understood that the war was more than a mere struggle between nation states. He believed passionately, and correctly, that it was a struggle to preserve the ideals of liberty and democracy that had been nurtured and developed over centuries. It was that belief that sustained Roosevelt, and it was his skill and courage as a leader that allowed him to bring his people to that realization. Despite its flaws, Black's chronicle of a man of strength and vision is a worthy tribute to his legacy. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 12 2010
Format: Paperback
While I have reservations about Black's ability to judge fairly the critical roles of important people in history by his tendency to see life as either right or wrong, I still appreciate his passion to create a big-picture view of events. He believes his thesis is infallible if he can demonstrate the greatest command of the relevant facts. In the case of this weighty tome on the political life and times of FDR, president of the United States during its most tumultuous years, Black brings to the table a ton of evidence to show his readers that his hero, while an imperfect individual, was an ideal leader who solved problems based on what he perceived to be best for the common man and the nation. In Black's opinion, FDR was that cagey politician who sized up the economic needs of the country during the Great Depression and developed a one-size-fits-all approach to getting the country back to work, though it would take almost a decade to do so. Roosevelt succeeded where others like his predecessor Hoover failed because he was prepared to radicalize the role of government to such an extent that his opponents either jumped on board or quickly became marginalized. For Black, a bit of a misunderstood autocrat and snob himself, FDR represents the ideal embodiment of national leadership. As an east-coast Brahman, who was dismissed early in life as a little rich boy, FDR dedicated himself to being a committed democrat and benign autocrat by time he entered state politics in the late 1920s. By sheer determination to overcome the terrible effects of polio in his personal life and a Machivellian cunning to outwit a bevy of Republicans and Democrats who threatened his desire for reform, FDR became the man of the hour. Anyone who stood in his way lost, including his wife, Eleanor.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Dec 27 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an odd biography. It ought to be called "the parts of FDR's life that interested Conrad Black with extensive color commentary by Conrad Black." Mr. Black interjects his opinion and comments about the events he is describing intrusively and constantly, right in the middle of the text. Sometimes Mr. Black finds his opinions/speculations/random thoughts and tidbits about FDR and his times rather more interesting than FDR himself.
There is plenty of conventional biography (though rather uneven, for instance Eleanor Roosevelt is relegated to being someone who pops in once in a blue moon to nag FDR), but it gets welded to a psychohistory. While Black has a number of interesting insights and educated guesses, he makes a few rather dubious ones (for instance, he presumes far greater rationality on Hitler's part than the record shows).
While Black's psychohistory of FDR is probably pretty much on target, at times he pushes this a little too far, and you begin to think FDR wasn't just the greatest American president of the twentieth century, but also its greatest psychic.
This fault is exasperated by Mr. Black's habit of delivering near-mystical panegyrics to FDR whenever the mood strikes him, whether appropriate or not, which is a bit too often.
The book is very readable, if inclined to the gossipy side.
It's not a bad book at all, but it really could have used an editor enpowered to restrain Mr. Black's more than occasional but less than obsessive excesses.
I've emphasized the negative simply because terms like "definitive biography" have been used to describe this book. It is no such thing. Rather, it is rather more like a funnish romp through his life, with Conrad Black as co-star commentator. The results are better than one might suppose, but this is certainly not a great book or the only book on FDR one needs to read.
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By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 20 2014
Format: Hardcover
One might expect a writer of Conrad Black's political persuasion to disapprove strongly of FDR, and blame him for much of the USA's current ills. That would be simplistic and wrong.

Black is actually quite approving of FDR, although he doesn't hold back from criticizing him where he finds him at fault. Overall, though, this book provides a picture of a leader who was up to the task of the times, saving the United States from catastrophe during the Depression and then skilfully maneuvering the nation into and through the Second World War.

This book is massive - almost 1200 pages, plus endnotes. Short of a multi-volume biography, this is about as big a book as you can get.

Conrad Black's writing style is fascinating, alternating between formal and then what can only be described as extravagant turns of phrase e.g. Hitler "irrigating his chin", etc. Black doesn't shy away from making moral judgements - the words "evil" and "disgusting" occur at times. He does make quite strenuous efforts to keep things in balance overall. Though this book is obviously a lot of work to get through, it is certainly worth tackling if you have much interest in the subject and the times.
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Format: Hardcover
In "The Time 100 - the Most Important People of the Century," Franklin Delano Roosevelt is ranked the runner-up most important person of the century - second only to Albert Einstein. Roosevelt is a giant of world history.
On the back cover of this fine book by Conrad Black are these comments about this book by CONSERVATIVE intellectuals I generally admire:
George F. Will: "Conrad Black skillfully assembles powerful arguments to support strong and sometimes surprising judgements. This spirited defense of Roosevelt as a savior of America's enterprise system, and geopolitical realist, is a delight to read."
John Lukacs: "Conrad Black's FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT is extraordinary. It is something different from the dim and flickering lamp of academic retrospect. A new - and generous - light is poured on its subject: an illumination directed by a conviction of Roosevelt's place in the history of an entire century."
William F. Buckley Jr.: "An enormous accomplishment, a learned volume on FDR by a vital critical mind, which will absorb critics and the reading public."
Henry Kissinger: "No Biography of Roosevelt is more thoughtful and readable. None is as comprehensive."
I really enjoyed Conrad Black's writing style, which adds life to the words with his own colorful descriptors. This is the best single-volume biography of FDR. He presents an accurate and living picture of Roosevelt in his presidency and not a dry summary of the events. For example, I chuckled when Black says that FDR correctly judged Hitler to be the real concern while Mussolini was, in comparison, a buffoon.
My own criticism of the book is that it skips over the human suffering of the period. The Great Depression was devestating.
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