...a thoroughly researched and immensely readable account ... Cook does a stirringly sensitive job describing the core beliefs that gave 'ER' strength even in the war's darkest days ... Readers will encounter in these pages an intimate, touchingly human Eleanor Roosevelt – an icon they can both admire and genuinely like.
...the Eleanor Roosevelt who inhabits these meticulously crafted pages transcends both first-lady history and the marriage around which Roosevelt scholarship has traditionally pivoted ... is her Sisyphean labors on behalf of refugees, many of them Jews threatened by the Nazi killing machine, that make ER heartachingly relevant.
Cook fleshes out the generally accepted perception of Roosevelt as more progressive than her husband, more eager to preserve the best of the New Deal (even as war loomed) and to foster a more egalitarian and inclusive society ... For the most part, Cook skims quickly through Eleanor's later years, almost as though tiring of her subject. But her discussion of the former first lady's encounters with the 'crude misogyny' of the men in the U.N.'s U.S. delegation is vivid.
...in isolation, this final volume offers only occasional glimpses into the complex bond between the first couple ... Ms Cook’s book essentially ends with FDR’s death in April 1945, with just 30 pages of 'epilogue' devoted to the final 17 years of Eleanor’s life—years in which she became unshackled, so to speak, from her role as a politician’s wife.
Keeping the focus on her actions and reactions, Cook skillfully narrates the epic history of the war years ... It’s a tribute to Cook’s rich portrait that after three enormous volumes, I still wanted to know more. The ironies of Eleanor’s death make her life even more poignant and moving; their omission leaves her as a timeless and legendary figure
One of the most extraordinary aspects of the third volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's monumental biography of Eleanor Roosevelt is the way it ends. I don't think I've ever read another biography where the death of the subject is noted in an aside of less than 10 words, on the second to last page of the book ... packed with many revealing small incidents, as well as detailed accounts of her tireless work on behalf of progressive causes ... I've read all three volumes of Cook's biography and, taken together, they present an exhausting and exhilarating story, as well as undeniably melancholy one.
...this account of her wartime efforts on behalf of liberal democracy would have had more impact in a better-proportioned book ... Even Cook’s assessment of the Roosevelts’ fraught marriage seems tired here...Cook’s dislike of FDR as a person — glib, calculating, and secretive where his wife was sincere, honest and occasionally maladroit — is obvious ... It’s hard to resist the conclusion that she simply ran out of steam on this project. This bloated yet truncated volume brings to a disheartening close the work of groundbreaking scholarship launched with such promise.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3 depicts ER’s emergent public persona with more detail and anecdote than in the previous two volumes, and Cook’s prose reflects that shift, with cool, crisp sentences that avoid her earlier worshipful tone. Even as Cook treads familiar history, her perspective, through ER’s eyes, is vigorous and fresh, the comparisons with our own darkening world subtle and yet potent ... Cook packing ER’s last 17 years into an afterword, a rich period in which the former first lady traveled extensively, advocating for human rights and the critical importance of the United Nations as a hub of international peace and goodwill. Despite this editorial misfire, Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3 achieves the biographer’s lofty goal: to bring ER to life through her own words and deeds.