His Final Battle: The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt

Joseph Lelyveld. Knopf, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-35079-2
Lelyveld (Great Soul), winner of a 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Move Your Shadow, shows that there is much left to say about F.D.R. even though there is little left to learn of the main elements of his biography. Lelyveld’s approach is to focus on the last months of F.D.R.’s life and the influence of his declining health, always kept under wraps, on his decisions. The result is a gripping look into Roosevelt’s efforts to keep from both himself and the American people his severe hypertension and congestive heart failure during his successful fourth run for the presidency, as well as during the critical closing months of WWII. Lelyveld shows how others—national figures, family members, and the women who surrounded him—conspired to keep F.D.R.’s poor health a secret, and demonstrates that his doctors lacked either competence or candor. Yet those who saw him close up knew that his life was in danger. It didn’t help, as Lelyveld emphasizes, that F.D.R. was characteristically teasing and unrevealing about his thinking and intentions as well as his ailments. Though the consequences of the president’s illness might have been graver for the nation had he died even a few months prior, the U.S. survived while F.D.R. remained, as always, a sphinx, as he does to Lelyveld. This is a solid work of narrative history. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/13/2016
Release date: 09/06/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-7352-8677-1
Hardcover - 613 pages - 978-1-4104-9519-8
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-345-80659-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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