Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt

Aida D. Donald, Author . Basic $26 (287p) ISBN 978-0-465-00213-9

In this brisk biography, Donald, former editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, ascribes Teddy Roosevelt's popularity to his combination of charisma and substance; he was an “electrical, magnetic” speaker, according to one contemporary newspaper account, and he hit themes that resonated with ordinary folks, such as honesty in government and opportunity for all. In the White House, Roosevelt established a model of “positive, active governance” and insisted that the president was more powerful than any business tycoon. Donald pays particular attention to Roosevelt's pioneering conservancy efforts, and she suggests that one of his most important acts was to appoint Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. to the Supreme Court. Donald also touches on the personal: his grief when his first wife died, and his passionate love for his second wife, with whom he set a new standard for presidential domestic life, entertaining with a gusto unmatched until the Kennedys. The book is refreshingly slim, but sometimes—as in the brief discussion of Roosevelt's appointments of African-Americans to government jobs—one wishes for more. Indeed, there's not much here that readers won't find in other studies of Roosevelt, but Donald's swift prose makes this a satisfying read. Photos. History Book Club main selection. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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