Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 27 Jun 2011
As the head of two world powers, US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill conducted the war not merely as allies but also as friends. Their like-mindedness and their respect for each other formed a close relationship between them. Jon Meacham's Franklin and Winston attempted to focus on this extraordinary friendship forged by troubling times.
On one hand, Meacham did a good job in presenting a joint biography of the two leaders. Roosevelt was presented both as a Machiavellian politician as well as a capable executive at a time of war; Churchill, on the other hand, seemed to always have a drink in his hand but yet always found the energy to inspire his countrymen and lead them toward a greater purpose. The author, through archived correspondences between Roosevelt and Churchill and interviews of those who came in contact with the two men, described the interactions between them. This, however, led to some disappointment for me. While the book was written nicely, somehow it failed to strongly establish the development of their friendship for me. While many of the anecdotes included were new to me, I wondered if it really offered anything significantly more than the existing biographies of Roosevelt and Churchill out there, even if those titles did not particularly focus on the interaction between the two men. In the end, I thought the author had failed to complete the mission he set out to accomplish despite his own choice of title for this book.
I had reviewed Franklin and Winston in its audio book form. The narrator Grover Gardner did a fine job reading in general, though on a few occasions I found myself having to listen the same passage a second time in order to catch everything. His pace was fine and his voice was clear (albeit a little nasal, though that really mattered little), so it could very well be that it was the content of the book that disengaged me at times.
Overall, Franklin and Winston was a good book, though not the best on the topic. I would recommend William Manchester's The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940 as an alternative on Churchill; I did not have a recommendation on Roosevelt at the time of this writing and would love to hear WW2DB visitors' thoughts on that topic.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939