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The New York Times Book Review: Eleanor, a Personal Story From History’s First Lady

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Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is a legend. A former first lady in power of her own, she only lasted 21 months as first lady, from her November 29, 1933, resignation until Roosevelt’s death July 20, 1945. After both her husbands died, she went on to a successful career as a writer, author, and social reformer.

But the Internet is replete with good books about Eleanor Roosevelt: the classic of these is The White House Years, by Robert Caro, whose contributions to the history of the United States are literally unfathomable. It shows, the godfather of American history has managed to make a palpable and detailed and irrefutable argument about a woman in the upper echelons of society who was brilliant in politics and power and intellectual, but who, however good she was, could never get away from being a woman.

On the other hand, there is David Michaelis, an essayist and historian who studied Eleanor at the University of Michigan. A book about her that wasn’t limited to academics would clearly interest no less than the popular reader. So why did it, finally, take 82 years? Where, in the world, had this book been? “Eleanor,” published in spring, is a concise and moving glimpse into her life.

MORE from the November 15 issue of the New York Times

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