cover image A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt

A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt

Geoffrey C. Ward. HarperCollins Publishers, $27.95 (889pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016066-1

This notable biography, following the author's Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt, 1882-1905 , concentrates on character and personality rather than politics or policymaking. Beginning in 1905, with Franklin and Eleanor's honeymoon, it covers FDR's years as New York state senator, assistant secretary of the Navy, his early struggle to overcome the ravages of polio and ends with his election as governor of New York in 1928. Ward not only traces the development of Roosevelt's ``first-class temperament'' but provides dimensional characterizations of friends, enemies and family members, gallantly defending FDR's often-maligned mother, Sara, and revealing the effect on the Roosevelt children of the tensions between Franklin and Eleanor. FDR's jaunty, fun-loving nature and his ``breezy duplicity'' are brought into focus in the early sections, but the tone deepens in the moving account of the future president's valiant but hopeless attempt to regain the use of his legs. Going against the accepted legend, Ward maintains that ``the Roosevelt who could not walk was in most respects very like the one who could.'' Photos. (Aug.)