Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life by Joseph Persico
Franklin and Lucy is an incredible documentary. The thing that amazes me the most is Persico’s ability to reach back to a time when the media was limited to newspapers, radio, and written correspondence, and when subjects like divorce, lesbians, extra-marital affairs, and obsessive parental domination were only whispered about behind closed doors, and yet, through extensive research, Persico managed to piece together the facts to create a very personal, intimate view of FDR’s private life.
The book is historical. It’s a love story of self-indulgence and betrayal, sacrifice and compromise, political power and raw ambition. It is a behind the scenes look at the very private details of Franklin’s life. The story is like a finely woven tapestry. It weaves together the perplexing alliance between Franklin and the important women in his life.
As a child of the New York elite, Franklin was spoiled. As a young adult he was self-indulgent, egotistical, and handsome; a Harvard playboy, or in today’s terms “a player”. He was quoted (by his cousins) as being “superficial” and nick-named “Feather Duster” (for the initials F. D.) because he was not rugged. His mother, Sara, was a domineering control freak, and because she also controlled the purse strings to a huge inheritance, Franklin accepted this and endured it throughout his life.
Eleanor was the shy, orphaned, ugly-duckling cousin. Her one asset was that she was the favorite niece of her uncle Teddy Roosevelt, (while Franklin was just a several times removed, distant relative). Could that have been Franklin’s primary attraction to Eleanor? Their marriage got off to a bad start; they married against Sara’s wishes.
Lucy Rutherfurd was a classic beauty. She was cultured, gracious, warm, loving, friendly, and attentive; all the things Eleanor wasn’t. Franklin fell in love with her and proceeded to have an affair.
This sounds like a torrid romance novel; but it is all true, documented, and archived. And that is only the beginning of the story. The book takes you through 4 Presidential elections and WWII; a time when Franklin earned the distinction of being one of the greatest American Presidents and one of the most widely respected global leaders. And Eleanor was accredited the public’s compliment of being “a great lady.” But this is a book about their personal lives. It’s about Eleanor’s private humiliation at finding out about Franklin’s affair with Lucy and her total physical and emotional withdraw. It’s about Franklin’s struggle with polio and his dependence on various other women. And it’s about Lucy Rutherfurd and her on-going secret connection to Franklin.
A fascinating story.
Rated 4.5 Stars.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.